Lesson 29

Irregular Consonants , . Silencer ◌์

Reading

Much of the religious and technical vocabulary of Thai has been taken from Sanskrit and Pali. Now, whereas Thai only has one "ess−type" sound, Sanskrit has three, usually represented as: ś, ṣ and s. In Thai effort is made for loanwords to preserve as much of the spelling of the original language as possible. That meant the creation of two additional characters to represent ś and ṣ. Both are pronounced in the same way as , namely /s/ at the start of a syllable, and /t/ at the end, and both are high class, like .

The new consonants are:

CharacterPronunciationNameMeaningNotes
/s−/, /−t//sɔ̌ɔ sǎaˑ​laa/Sala (open−sided pavillion) 
/s−/, /−t//sɔ̌ɔ rʉʉˑ​sǐi/HermitContrast with

These consonants are referred to as "irregular consonants" because they are not used to write native Thai words. All the consonants previously encountered in this course have been "regular".

Here are some common words to practise reading.

Another problem with loanwords is that sometimes consonants at the ends of syllables are either unpronounced in the original language (e.g. "r" in "bar"), or can't be pronounced in Thai (e.g. the "s" in "physics"). As Thai tries to preserve the original spelling of loanwords, the unpronounced and unpronouncable characters are retained in the spelling, but a mark, known as /thanˑ​thaˑ​khâat/ (or, less formally, as /kaaˑ​ran/. So, bar is written บาร์ (pronounced /baa/), and "physics" is written ฟิสิกส์ (pronounced /fíˑsìk/).

The consonants silenced have no effect whatsoever on the pronunciation of the remaining part of the word, so in อาจารย์ (/aaˑcaan/, teacher) is pronounced as if it were at the end of the syllable, and is pronounced /n/.

Here are some words to practice reading:

Sometimes it's more than just the final consonant that's silenced. If there's a vowel associated with the final consonant, it's silenced too. So, for example, in ศักดิ์ (ability), both and ◌ิ are silenced, and the word is pronounced /sàk/.

Also, if after the final consonant is silenced what is left doesn't make "sense" the preceding consonant will be silenced, too. For example:

WordPronunciationMeaning
วิทยาศาสตร์/wítˑthaˑyaaˑsàat/science
จันทร์/can/moon

And sometimes you just have to "know" that the previous syllable is silenced. For example:

WordPronunciationMeaning
กษัตริย์/kaˑsàt/pure

Finally, sometimes ◌์ will appear in the middle of a syllable − most commonly r/ and l/ − in words taken from English, e.g. ฟอร์ม (/fɔɔm/, form) and ปาล์ม (/paam/, palm).

Here are some words to read covering all these types:

Writing

CharacterNotes
Start with the loop, anticlockwise, and continue in a single stroke. Then lift your pen and write the crossing stroke downwards.
Start by drawing , then lift your pen and draw the second component, starting with the loop anticlockwise.
karanStart by drawing the loop clockwise.