The Thai alphabet is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of learning Thai. There is something about the process of recognizing new characters that are more difficult than the new vocabulary or customs. We’ve looked at the main aspect of Thai characters and how they work previously. Specifically, the consonants and vowels and how they fit together. So, what if I told you there are some special Thai characters you need to know?
Don’t worry, we will be covering these special Thai characters from the Thai alphabet today in-depth so that you can work on continue to learn Thai.
If you have had a look through this blog, you should now be familiar with the consonants and vowels that make up the Thai alphabet. You can think of these as your ‘standard’ characters - ones you would see in most languages.
While the Thai language doesn’t use punctuation (at least not in the same way we do in the West), there are a couple of examples that we have covered before.
However, in Thai, there are a few unique ones that you will see from time to time. These either do not have an equivalent in English or are Thai versions of what we sometimes see in the West.
Do you remember before when we looked into the meaning of sabai sabai? By repeating a word twice, you emphasize it and intensify its meaning. So by repeating the word ‘sabai’ (สบาย), you invoke a thought of extreme comfort and relaxation.
When it comes to writing these repeat words, you have two options. The first is obvious, as you just repeat the word twice. However, it could also be written with the Thai repetition character placed after the word you want to repeat. So, ‘sabai sabai’ can be written either as “สบาย สบาย” or “สบายๆ”.
As you can imagine, the faster option is often used. Next time you read a familiar word but see a character at the end you don’t recognize, it may be the “mai ya mok” (ไม้ยมก) or Thai repetition character.
Did you know that Thai uses its own character to represent the phrase et cetera? Looking into the actual meaning of this Latin phrase, the best definition I could find is that it means that more, similar items follow when used at the end of a list.
Basically, it is a shorthand way of saying that the list is written does not contain every example possible. In English, we take this Latin phrase and contract it, usually as ‘etc.’ or something along those lines.
In Thai however, they have their own special Thai character that has a very similar meaning. Known as ‘bpai-yaan yai’ (ไปยาลใหญ่), the ‘ฯลฯ’ can be used in the same way as the English ‘etc.’, making things simpler for us learners.
All good things come to an end, and if there was ever a character to represent that, this would be it. The ‘ahng kan khu’ (อังคั่นคู่) is a character that is placed at the end of a section, whether that section is a chapter or verse. A Google Translate of the name of this character describes it best: a double separator.
Due to the lack of periods in Thai writing, markers such as this one would be a helpful indicator or way of sectioning text to make it more manageable when reading.
The official name for this character is ‘"mai tan ta kaat’ (ไม้ทัณฑฆาต), but is often referred to as ‘dtua gaa-run' (ตัวการันต์). Sometimes when it comes to Thai pronunciation, the characters you don’t say are as important as the ones you pronounce. That is where the Thai silence character or blocking character comes in. When used, it shows that the character it is placed above is not pronounced.
As a side note, the ‘อ‘ part of this character (the consonant) is just used as a place holder, showing where the mark is placed relative to the character. As such, the consonant character is not pronounced. The mark above it is actually what is used. As an example,
It is most commonly used for words that are borrowed from other languages like English. It helps to approximate or replicate the sounds/pronunciation using Thai characters.
Thailand has some long place names and phrases. Due to how etiquette and politeness in Thailand work, especially towards royalty and religious figures, people often recite long phrases or titles as a sign of respect.
That is where the abbreviation character, known as ‘bpai-yaan noi‘ (ไปยาลน้อย), comes in. This character is used to signify that a word has been shortened or abbreviated. One of the best examples that come to mind is the full name of Bangkok.
Instead of writing out the full name/title of the city, it is possible to instead write the shortened version as ‘krung thep’ (กรุงเทพฯ). This makes things so much simpler and quicker while signifying that the abbreviation has taken place, which I am sure is helpful for those unfamiliar.
This interesting marking is used to denote the beginning of a new paragraph. It is definitely refreshing to see something used at the beginning of the text rather than in the middle or end like many similar punctuation marks are used.
The official name for this character is ‘fong man’ (ฟองมัน), but is often referred to as ‘dtaa gai’ (ตาไก่) which means chicken’s eyes. I think the reason for this name is obvious.
This is another of the characters that have fallen out of use in everyday writing. Instead, it is used for traditional texts or for poetic purposes. Keep an eye out for this one.
This next special Thai character, the ‘koh moot’ (โคมูตร), is another that is unique to Thai. It would best be translated to ‘the end’ as it signifies just that - the end of a text. I guess it is a way to let readers know that things have come to an end.
As interesting as this special Thai character is, it is no longer used commonly. From what I can tell, it was often used on passages or religious texts, rather than everyday writings.
To learn more about the Thai alphabet and vocabulary, the ling Thai app is ideal. Test your skills with fun games, challenges, and more.