Lesson 6

Dead syllables - Long Vowels


Let's start by explaining a few, perhaps unfamiliar, terms:

SonorantA sound produced with a continuous air stream. In other words, the tongue and throat don't move. In Thai, this includes all the vowels, and the consonants , , , , .
StopA consonant that is pronounced with blocking the air stream. In Thai this includes the consonants , , and .
Live SyllableA syllable that ends with a sonorant.
Dead SyllableA syllable that ends with a stop.

All the syllables we've looked at so far have been "live" syllables, meaning that they end either with a long vowel (-า, -อ, &c.) or a sonorant (-น, -ม, -ง, -ย, -ว).

The three possible stop sounds for the end of a syllable in Thai are /k/, /t/ and /p/. However, this introduces one of the idiosyncracies of Thai: some consonants are pronounced differently when they occur at the end of a syllable. So, the regular consonants used to represent the stop sounds are (/−k/), (/−t/) and (/−p/).

Dead syllables are also pronounced with different tones from live ones. Where the initial consonant is middle or high class, the tone is low. So, for example,

Highฝา /fǎa/ lidฝาก /fàak/ deposit
 หา /hǎa/ search forหาด /hàat/ beach
 หี /hǐi/ vaginaหีบ /hìip/ box
Middleตา /taa/ eyeตาก /tàak/ Tak (province)
 ปา /paa/ throwปาด /pàat/ sweep away
 งอ /ŋɔɔ/ be sulkyงอบ /ŋɔ̂ɔp/ a hat made of bamboo and palm leaves

In summary:


Practise reading these words, paying particular attention to the tone.

Previously we learned how the combination ◌ั is pronounced /ua/. This form is used when the /ua/ sound occurs at the end of a syllable. When it occurs in the middle of a syllable, just is used. So, for example, ปวด is pronounced /pùat/.

Try reading these words, again paying attention to the correct tone.

Here are some slightly longer words for practice.