The Emergence of Thai language
Thai is the national and official language of Thailand. The emergence of Tai / Thai language comes from an area close to Vietnam and China. Thai language is linked to the languages of eastern Myanmar, northern Vietnam, Yunnan and Laos. Thai is a tonal language of the Tai Kadai language family; spoken nationally in spite of the four major regional dialects from the south, the north, the northeast and the center.
Thai as a written language was introduced during Sukhothai period by the king Ramkhamhaeng. Writing is based on Pali, Sanskrit. Many Mon and Khmer words are used as well.
Thai language is using a phonemic alphabet having 44 consonants and 21 vowels. Thai is writing horizontally, from left to right, without space. Vowels could be written before or after, above or below the consonant. Each syllable contains a vowel sound and can be pronounced according to five lexical tones: low, mid, high, falling or rising. That is the reason why we often talk about a ‘melodic language’.
Thai grammar is usually considered as easier than western language grammar. Indeed, singular and plural, male and female, person and possession, subject-verb agreement and tenses are not taken into account and don’t modify words. Regarding vocabulary, it is a large monosyllabic and disyllabic lexicon which constitutes everyday words.
Learning to speak Thai for Europeans is less difficult than writing. Many good books and methods are easy to find in libraries and book shops. Of course, speaking with local people is still the best way to learn it!