Lesson 26

Irregular Final Consonants


The original Thai language was relatively straightforward: words were monosyllabic; there were only three tones; and the range of consonants was limited. However, Thai has “borrowed” words from other languages extensively. Many religious and medical terms have been borrowed from Sanskrit and from Pali. Many words were absorbed from Khmer during the Ayutthaya period, particularly words associated with royalty and aristocracy. Day−to−day words have arrived with immigrants from China with their various Chinese dialects. And, more recently, modern words have been adopted from English.

One of the features of the written Thai language is that it tries with loanwords to preserve much of the original spelling. This means that syllables can end with consonants which don't "fit" the Thai spoken system, so the pronunciation of the final consonant is changed. Consider a word such as อาหาร (food). The final is pronounced /n/, so it's /aaˑ​hǎan/.

Final is also pronounced /n/, so ผล (fruit) is pronounced /phǒn/.

So, we can start to put together a table of initial and final pronunciations:


(, , , and are (as we've seen previously) pronounced the same in initial and final positions.)

Try reading the following words.


Now let's expand the table to include other irregular final consonants.

/b−/, /f−/, /p−/, /ph−/, /−p/บฟปพ
/d−/, /c/, /ch−/, /s−/, /t−/, /th−//−t/ดจซสตทถ
/k−/, /kh−//−k/กขค

The following five consonants never occur at the end of a syllable: , , , , . (Knowing this can make finding word boundaries easier.)

Now try reading these words: