Here we can show what is on each card specifically for the 43 Thai vowels, tone marks and punctuation cards, now available for sale online and at over 60 locations in Thailand.
Purpose of the Thai Alphabet Cards
Most of the elements can be learned individually using the cards. For example, covering up a part of one side of the card and prompting for covered elements (e.g., show the picture and prompt for the written form, show the English meaning and prompt for the Thai word pronunciation, etc.)
The cards have been devise for maximum information density while balancing composition with a focus on the learner who wants to learn how to write and read Thai characters as well as how to pronounce the characters correctly.
In particular, we have innovated in the creation of symbols to indicate various tone, sound, and syllable class rules, as well as the innovation of showing frequency as well as duration of tone in the form of a graph.
Thai Side of Card - ด้านภาษาไทย
Thai character sound – เสียงของตัวสระภาษาไทย
Thai name of character – ชื่อของตัวสระเป็นภาษาไทย
Thai character with drawing indicators – แบบแสดงเส้นนำทางในการเขียนตัวสระ
Common handwritten form – รูปแบบของสระที่นิยมเขียนเป็นลายมือเขียน
Color coding of the vowel class – ใช้สีกำกับบอกประเภทของสระ
Vowel pair, if present - คู่เสียงสระสั้นยาว
Vowel categories indicating short or long, diphtongs, and combined (vowel+consonant) - ประเภทของสระ สระเสียงสั้น สระเสียงยาว สระประสม สระพิเศษ
Drawing illustrating the character name – ภาพวาดที่แสดงชื่อของสระ
Tone rules for long and short vowels when applied to high, mid and low consonants – กฏการออกเสียงสูงต่ำสำหรับพยางค์สระเสียงสั้นและพยางค์สระเสียงยาวเมื่อใช้กับพยัญชนะสูง กลาง และ ต่ำ
Vowel order number (in Thai numerals) – เลขลำดับของสระในภาษาไทยเป็นตัวเลขไทย
English Side of Card - ด้านภาษาอังกฤษ
Phonetic transcription of Thai sound in English –การออกเสียงสระภาษาไทยเป็นภาษาอังกฤษ
Tone frequency and duration graph -กราฟแสดงเสียงสูงต่ำของเสียงสระ
Mouth position diagram -แผนภาพรูปปากขณะออกเสียงสระ
English translation for character name -คำแปลชื่อของสระเป็นภาษาอังกฤษ
Vowel class -ประเภทของสระเป็นภาษาอังกฤษ
Vowel order number (in Arabic numerals) -เลขลำดับของสระในภาษาไทยเป็นตัวเลขอราบิค
There are both substantive and subtle changes to the Thai Alphabet Cards. For the Thai Consonants, we add the ten numbers (0-9) as ten additional cards, and then on the consonant cards themselves, the significant changes are:
Multiple English Transliteration / Transcription (Haas/AUA, IPA, Paiboon)
The second edition of the Thai Alphabet Cards is underway, and we've revamped the Tone Graphs, among other elements.
Changes in Central Thai Tones over Time
There is significant evidence for changes in the standard tones in Central Thai over time. While this is an important aspect of tone, and intermediate learners should become sensitive to this (as well as other important aspects of tone, which is quite complicated in running speech), still we have made the decision to use a common and conservative model for displaying tones on the Thai Alphabet cards.
For a model, we've revisited the original tone graphs of Arthur S. Abramson from his work The Vowels and Tones of Standard Thai: Acoustical Measurements and Experiments, International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 28, No. 2, April, 1962. This work is, after 44 years, still seen as the standard.
We've spent considerable time reviewing the literature since (and before) 1962, and especially the evidence presented for historical changes to the tones which have occurred since Abramson's published early work. While there are many publications, most have severe problems with them which prevent using any as a reference for the tone changes. In many cases, single case examples or synthetic averages are presented, but without the primary goal of a new standard, and therefore without the methodological rigor needed for adopting changes in the contours.
Again, there is evidence for changes to the tones of Central Thai over time, specifically by reviewing differences between a younger cohort and an older cohort, as presented in Inter- and intraspeaker variability inf undamental frequency of Thai tones, by Gandour, Potisuk, Ponglorpisit, and Dechongkit, Speech Communication 10 (1991), pp.355-372.
There is an intriguing article proposing a mechanism for tone change using Gedney's tonebox by Pittayawat Pittayaporn entitled Directionality of Tone Change, 2007. However, the so-called Thai tonal space in 4 stages suffers dramatically from a very poor choice of tonal examples in stages 3 and 4 (a single sample, and a synthetic result from a study contrasting tones in isolated exemplars vs. connected speech, respectively). While the data is insufficient in evidence, the underlying mechanisms still appear plausible, though would not operate in isolation from the population of speakers and vast variety and import of second languages on Central Thai (Siamese).
Abramson (1962) as the Signal Reference Work
Besides the fact that there is no real reference work that we might use with full plausibility, there are other reasons why the traditional tone graphs are best suited for the Thai Alphabet Cards:
These tone graphs are seen as standard and conventional, unremarkable in a positive way.
For beginning Thai speakers, these tone contours will most likely match what native Thai teachers have been taught, and emulate in the classroom.
As these traditional graphs represent an older, as opposed to a younger set of speakers, it will be more common in traditional media and among (older) spoken adults.
The traditional tone graphs are still accurate (enough) and appropriate even with the supplemental research which has occured since then (see Abramson Thai Tonal Space 1997, where he writes The "ideal" contours found in earlier work ... are still quite acceptable for isolated Thai words).
Nearly all research has focused on the long vowel tones only, and do not include short vowel tones, as does the original Abramson (1962) work.
The only change of tone of significance is the shape of the high tone, which appears concave rather than convex (sometimes labeled a high-rising tone in contrast to the standard rising tone being labeled a low-rising tone.
Whether the high / high-rising tone ends with a downturn is generally better supported (and is at worst seen as one of two standard contours), and aligns with the Abramson (1962) contour.
Use of the Abramson (1962) Tone Contour Figures
To align the Tone Graphs in the Thai Alphabet Cards, we acquired an original copy of Abramson (1962) and scanned the two tone graphs (figures 3.5, 3.6 on pp. 126-127). We then scanned the figures into PDF format and and imported them into the Inkscape vector graphics program. We then traced the contours and separated them into individual graphs.
Changes to the Thai Alphabet Cards Tone Graphs
The main changes are a return to the original tone countours, as well as aspect ratio and shape. This also reduces the space used by the graphs without reducing information.
Below is the example for ฒอ ผู้เฒ่า (thɔɔ phûuthâw / tʰɔː pʰûː tʰâw / tɔɔ pŭu-tâo), which has one long mid tone, one long falling tone, and one short falling tone.
Comparison of Short and Long Vowel Tones
Note that there is a bit less distortion in the short vowel tone (which was only a compressed long vowel tone, which was based on Naksakul (1977) Thai Phonology as adapted in the Elementary Thai for Foreigners text as published and taught by the Linguistics program at Mahidol University (1991).
One challenge for using Thai script on a computer is that Thai characters are more vertical than roman alphabet characters. If one is mixing roman and Thai characters in a document, the Thai characters tend to be much smaller (and therefore illegible if the roman characters are optimized for space and legibility). The reason for this is that Thai characters, along with vowel markers, tone marks, and the silent marker can stack above and below a character, which means they are generally much taller than Roman (Latin) and other alphabet systems.
A good (bad) example is the very legible source code editing font Hack which does not have Thai character support. This means the operating system substitutes the Thai system font, which makes reading difficult. The best that can be done is increasing the font size and decreasing the line height and the line length. This can make the latin characters less legible.
Fonts with Good Thai and Roman Character Support
When this post was first created in Nov. 2013 there were three fonts that I focused on. Those fonts listed were:
Note that all the fonts listed above with the exceptions of Linux Libertine, Arundina Sans, and Waree are available in the Free Thai font collection. We will be adding Arundina and Waree to the Thai Font Collection in the next month or two.
INCOMPLETE - WORK IN PROGRESS
It is common for those learning Thai to run across transcription of spoken Thai into systems other than the Thai script. At first, one would think that there would be a single correct transcription, for example based on the International Phonetical Association (IPA) that would accurately capture all the sounds in Thai. One would be wrong. There are a large number of transcription/transliteration systems, each with their own history and rationale. Understanding more about them is useful to Intermediate Thai language learners. Normally a beginning learner is simply at the mercy of whatever Thai language books/material and/or Thai teacher/tutor is most convenient or chosen for the learner. As for the author of this essay, I held a bias against the IPA system as I wondered why I had to learn a third system in order to learn the second system (Thai). It turns out I was incorrect and it would have been better to learn not only the phonemes and phonology of Thai, but also that of English. A better understanding of both is the key to cutting through the confusion of Thai transcription systems that proliferate.
Topics to follow:
- Transcription system goals
- ASCII/En keyboard transcription
- Transcription systems
- True (full) IPA
- Hybrid systems
There are quite a few venues for riding horses in Chiang Mai, including horse riding courses and trail rides. Laddaland is the main riding club with dozens of horses, but there are many other smaller outfits as well.
While Speech Perception Research is a large and dynamic area of study, some recent findings can be summarized in a way that helps us better approach second language learning and teaching.
Accent-Independent Ataptation to Foreign Accented Speech
Accent-independent adaptation to foreign accented speech indicates that training on a set of foreign accents produces significant gains in comprehension with those accents as well as other non-training-set foreign accents. The idea is that foreign accents are systematic (in relation to the native foreign language), and learning a set of accents is generalizable across other accents.
For second language learners who second langauge has a set of accents in general, training on these accents, in addition to a primary general standard speakers, could be of assistance. For example, in Thailand a majority of the population does not have Standard Thai as a mother tongue and to some degree have accents that are shaped by their native language (with the largest number of speakers represented by: Isan, Northern Thai, and Southern Thai).
Practice with representative speakers of these mother tongues will increase overall understanding of the variety of accents of speakers of Standard Thai.
Time-Compressed, or fast speaking language should be introduced and integrated into second language learning, as a special aspect, with follow up training.
Reverse Hierarchies and Sensory Learning
Reverse Hierarchies and Sensory Learning discusses a useful theory to how second language learners make phonetic discrimination that relies on already built-up higher-level constructs rather than lower-level data that is available.
Our typical perceptual experiences (i.e. our conscious perception) reflect only the information stored at higher levels.
RHT is a powerful approach to understanding learning and perception in general. It can provide a clear explanation for second language learners why they don't hear a sound properly. It also provides a clear way to devise training on things such as novel sounds and lexical characteristics in a second language.
Auditory-Perceptual Learning Improves Speech Motor Adaptation in Children
Auditory feedback as a mechanism for auditory training and perceptual learning has an impact in performance of speech production. Training the ear is essential.
An interactive model of auditory-motor speech perception
An interactive model of auditory-motor speech perception, as above, provides strong evidence for an interactive model of auditory, somatosensory, and motor regions in effective speech. While highly interactive, the ear is still considered primary and the voice a secondary, modulatory role.
Speech production and listening training should be taught as a joint exercise rather than as separate and distinct.
Plasticity in the human speech motor system drives changes in speech perception
Thai languages, or languages in Thailand, are many and diverse. Scholars generally use the term Tai to refer to a larger language family which ranges across much of Mainland Southeast Asia and what is now Southern China. The main point is that there is ongoing research, different ideas, and not full agreement, on how to distinguish which languages are related to each other and which are siblings and which are parent languages.
Languages vs. Dialects
There is not a clear distinction where a dialect ends and a language begins. Presumably dialects are regional pronunciations and special local terms, whereas languages have much more of a difference which can result in mutual unintelligibility (the speaker of one language cannot understand the speaker of another language). Speakers of a language can grow apart, and their language then grows apart, resulting in two or more languages. Languages can also come together over time, such that a separate language starts to become mutually intelligible, where before it was not. And finally, many societies have multiple languages in use, and so intelligibility comes from close physical proximity of the languages and the speakers in the local area.
What usually happens in this case is that one language which is not a local language, and not the mother tongue of a majority of the inhabitants, is priviledged as a language of education or the economy.
How to Understand the Relations between Thai Languages
There are different ways of relating these languages to each other, but present scholarship is best understood as making the modern languages siblings at most, and unrelated languages most likely. It is common to hear each of these languages (with the exception of Malay) as being Thai, Thai Languages or Dialects of the Thai Language. Certainly they are languages spoken in Thailand, and have been for generations.
However, it is not accurate or useful to refer to these languages a part of a single language. Beyond the fact that these are generally mutually unintelligible, they also have very different histories and play a different function in the societies in which they live. Each is a mother tongue for a significant population, whereas Central Thai / Siamese is the national/government language. All languages except for Central Thai have been largely supressed as part of a nationalist Thaification policy which began in the 1940s and is operating up through the present.
This is an actively edited page, and will expand into a full book chapter. Comments are welcome.
Comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences between two languages is an effective tactic for second language learners. Direct cognitive awareness of those differences, while engaging in recognition and production of the differences, is more effective than indirect trial and error. Instruction and exercises that highlight these differences are important for mastery.
There are several consonants that are not identical to English consonants in sound and production of that sound. For learners of Thai, the main approach is to keep things as simple and uncomplicated as possible, in order to make forward progress, rather than get bogged down in the details. Therefore, what follows should not been seen as a starting point, but something to return to once some progress is made (for example, working with a teacher or tutor and getting through the alphabet in terms of reading, writing, speaking, and recognizing).
What follows may be important for some learners to know about what is being simplified. However, please avoid the all-too-common bad habit of trying to correct one's Thai teacher who is really trying to develop a skill in their students, with what follows, which is a technical and linguistic discussion.
English Consonant Sounds not in Thai
There are several English consonant sounds not found in Thai, including:
- Th - this
- Th - thigh
- V - vowel
- Z - zoo
- R - right (Thai R is a different sound, a trilled R)
- G - guy (Thai G is transcribed as K, a more uvular sound), there may be disputable
- Ch and J are transcribed differently, but act as a related pair, and can be considered allophones
- Sh (ʃ) - ship
- Zh (ʒ) - vision
In-between Consonant Sounds
In Thai there are consonants with a b sound, a p sound, and an in-between b+p sound (a sound not in English). For English speakers, they will not necessarily recognize the bp sound as being distinct but hear it as a b or a p.
In Thai, there are consonants with a d sound, a t sound, and an in-between d+t sound (a sound not in English). For English speakers, they will not necessarily recognize the dt sound as being distinct but hear it as a d or a t.
Ng Sound Consonant
In Thai there is a consonant that is equivalent to an ng sound, as found in words like song and sing (and every -ing verb ending). While this sound is in English, it is usually only in "final consonant position", that is, with a consonant and a vowel before it. In Thai, this consonant can be in "initial consonant position" which can be initially difficult to hear and produce for English speakers.
Thai Consonant Sounds (Phonemes) not in English
There are four categories of Thai Consonant Sounds not in English:
Those sounds which have related sounds (allophones) which are intelligible (k-kh vs. g-k), (tɕ-tɕʰ vs. dʒ-tʃ). Since these are arguable allophones of a phoneme and each case roughly matches what we hear and produce in either language, it is simply the case that we should follow what is standard practice in the majority of Thai language courses. That is, yes there is a difference in manner and place of articulation (in some majority of cases), but the congruent consonant sound in the other language is functionally allophonic. K (gau gai) in Thai is G in English and Kh in Thai (kau khai, etc.) is K in English. This also makes sense of the K as final consonant sound, where we may "hear" an English K, this is due in part to the "final oral plosives are said to be accompanied by simultaeous glottal closure" (Tingsabadh & Abramson, 1993). That is, we don't hear the full sound, aspiration or otherwise, and so the sound is interpreted as a g or a k, by an English speaker.
Those sounds which can be confused with other sounds (that is, Thai has finer gradations and discriminations) (d-dt-t; b-pb-p)
Those sounds which have nothing related in English (with some exceptions), namely the glottal stop (represented by a character that looks like a question mark ʔ/?)
In the fourth category, the sound is in English, but it is used in a different way that can be confusing (ng)
The R Consonant in Thai
In Thai there is an r consonant (actually three, including two rare compound consonants), but they differ from an English R in several ways. First, it is predominantly spoken as an L rather than an R in most everyday conversation. Secondly, when it is pronounced, it is a trill or rolling form of r, similar to a French r, rather than an English r. Finally, in many fonts, the r character script looks like an English s, as well as the standard Thai ร.
Missing Consonant Clusters
Consonant clusters are not included in phonetic charts for languages, namely because the information for sounds are already represented. Unlike dipthongs which have a direction and therefore can be plotted, consonant clusters are seen as merely additive. However, for the language learner, recognizing (hearing) and producing (saying) those clusters requires practice as with the individual consonants themselves.
Final Consonant Sounds in Thai
Not only are there changes in what a given letter becomes (transformation) in the final consonant position (fewer sounds are possible in the final consonant position), but also the consonant sound is cut short or muffled in many ways.
This has an impact not only on Thai learners unable to pronounce final consonants fully in English (especially the final S in plurals), but also certain final consonant sounds will be heard as a different sound, to match Thai phoneme patterns, e.g., path -> pap, ball -> ban.
Note on Minimal Pairs Training
Explicit training with minimal pairs is the most common drill-style method of learning the difference between two sounds and between two tones. Specifically, phonemic boundaries are being introduced (and re-established) for the second language learning, in order for them to hear more accurately the sounds in the target language. Minimal pairs can be very useful when used in a focused way, in terms of establishing production and recognition skills. However, in many cases adult learners starting out won't hear the differences, but that should not start some learning from getting underway.
This paper aims to examine similarities and differences between Thai and English consonants. It determines areas of difficulties when Thai students try to pronounce English consonantal sounds. It is found that English sounds which do not occur in the Thai phonology tend to pose great difficulty for Thai students to utter. Those sounds include /g/, /v/, /T/, /D/, /z/, /S/, /Z/, /tS/, and /dZ/. Sounds which exist in Thai but can occur in different environment, i.e. syllable position, are also prone to be difficult to pronounce. Such examples are /f/ and /s/. To tackle the problem of sounds nonexistent in Thai, Thai students are likely to substitute Thai sounds for the English sounds. In addition, the phenomenon where /l/ and /R/ are used interchangeably in Thai tends to be transferred in pronouncing /l/ and /r/ in English with great challenges.
Please see the Thai Font Poster which makes use of the Free Thai Font Collection
108 Free and Open Source Thai Fonts
The main goal of this repository is to provide -- in one place a set of freely (and legally) available Thai computer fonts. The collection of fonts show the diversity of Thai typefaces. While there are many different websites with fonts for download, some fonts are difficult to find, and many sites also have proprietary fonts which are not free, and their use violates intellectual property laws.
In addition, information about additional free-to-use fonts not hosted here is included, as well as information about standard proprietary Thai fonts, specifically those Thai fonts that come with Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows.
Note: we will be adding Arundina and Waree which are both TLWG Fonts (SIPA and NECTEC, respectively) but were not included. They have been a part of Linux distribution support for Thai fonts for many years.
Contents of the Thai Font Collection
The Lanna Innovation Thai Font Collection currently includes over 300 font files in 108 font families. Not all font families include multiple variants, but many do. Font files are in TTF or OTF file format. We intend to update all open source and pubic domain font files to OTF which has greater compatibility with modern applications. 14 of the font families (46 individual font styles) are Webfonts available on Google Fonts, which makes using them on websites quite easy.
- More about the Free and Open Source Thai fonts with download links. The licenses on these fonts allow us to distribute them.
Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts
Information about 30 Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts that can be downloaded from other websites. This is a curated collection of interesting and diverse fonts from a number of font creators and foundries.
Display Samples of Selected Characters in the Thai Font Collection
Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts
Information about Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts that can be downloaded from other websites. This is a curated collection of interesting and diverse fonts from a number of font creators and foundries.
Shipping is from Thailand, which can take 2-3 weeks for most countries, and 3-4 weeks for Australia. For faster shipping in North America and Europe, please visit Amazon which has all products available, with much faster delivery. Prices are slightly higher there. For shipping to Thailand locations, delvery is between 3-5 days using EMS.