thai isan language
How similar are the Thai and Lao languages? Are they mutually intelligible?
I’ve started a Thai course in anticipation of a long holiday in SE Asia next year. I’ll be many weeks in Laos as well. Will a knowledge of Thai help out there? Are the alphabets very similar?
Also, are there any other “similar” languages in the region (i.e, where knowing one will help out with the other)?
The Thai and Lao languages are very similar and yes they are mutually intelligible. Both languages are part of the Tai language family which belongs to the larger Tai-Kadai aka Kradai language family. So yes learning Thai should help you out tremendously. However the alphabets from Laos and Thailand are both different despite both originating from India. In regards to other similar languages, Isan spoken in Northeast Thailand and many of the tribal languages languages spoken in and around Laos, Thailand, Northeast Myanmar and Northern Vietnam are related Tai languages. In many cases the way to identify a Tai language is the use of the word Tai as part of the name. Example of such languages are: Tai Dam(Vietnam), Tai Long(Laos), Tai Song(Thailand). So have fun over there and good luck!
thai isan language
“ The main language is Isan, which is a dialect of the Lao language. Currently written with the Thai alphabet (instead of the slightly different Lao alphabet), Isan belongs to the Chiang Seng and Lao–Phutai language groups, which along with Thai are members of the Tai languages of the Tai–Kadai language family. Thai is also spoken by almost everyone. Khmer, the language of Cambodia, is widely spoken in areas along the Cambodian border: Buriram, Surin, and Sisaket. The people are aware of their Lao ethnic origin, but Isan has been incorporated into the modern Thai state. Several Thai prime ministers have come from the region. [From Wikipedia: Isan] [pinterest-pro type=”pinit” pin_url=”http://siam-longings.com/1books/thai-isan-language.htm” pin_image_url=”” pin_counter=”horizontal” pin_desc=”For a mere blog post, this is a fairly strong look at the Isaan language.”]
To gain some handle on — or appreciation of — the complexity of the Isaan language, have a look at the excerpts from the table of contents of Asger Mollerup’s Thai-Isan-Lao Phrasebook.
I suspect that another worthy publication will be the English-Isaan (Isan) Dictionary that is in the works and — when available — will appear on this page at Living Hour – Learn Thai-Isaan Language Books. They have been promising it as being imminently available for many months now, yet it is clearly not on that sales page even at the date of this post edit (May 7, 2012).
I find it both interesting and rather sad that even many Isaan people are not completely aware that they do not use their own script when they write. That is, they have become so indoctrinated by the Central Thai push to mainstream Thai as the one and only official language for the nation, that they do not recognize that they are not writing Isaan in their own Isaan script when they sit down and put “pen to paper.” Isaan script has become essentially lost.
In that context, you might find illuminating this easy-to-read paper by Wajuppa Tossa of the Western Languages and Linguistics Department, Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty, Mahasarakham University in Thailand that is titled STORYTELLING, A MEANS TO REVITALIZE A DISAPPEARING LANGUAGE AND CULTURE IN NORTHEAST THAILAND (ISAN).
The ability to write the language
There is no contemporary orthography for Isan, though forms (principally Thai Noi) existed prior to the imposition of Central Thai as an official language, in documents and in temple murals (Smalley, 1994; for examples, see Yenchuay, 2002; Samosorn, n.d.). A thorough evaluation of Central Thai / Isan orthographic and phonetic issues is required prior to any move to introduce a contemporary Isan orthography. This is a complex issue that requires consideration of government policy, stylistic features, community acceptance, and linguistic issues of pronunciation, vowel length, accent, tone and orthographic representation.
There is little doubt that language loss is occurring in the case of Isan, with a significant language shift occurring in the direction of Central Thai as a result of mass media and central government policies (Vandergeest, 1993; Chanthao, 2002). The loss of a written language and increasing bilingualism and borrowings clearly place Isan in May’s (2000) second stage of language shift, with stage three being language death. Crystal (2000) stresses the inter-generational differences that occur in such situations, and attaches importance to six factors seen as prerequisites to establishing the minority language as a “tool of inter-generational communication” (p. 130), and hence ensuring maintenance. In this section, Crystal’s six factors are applied to the case of Isan.
Both of the above quotes are from John Draper’s ISAN: THE PLANNING CONTEXT FOR LANGUAGE MAINTENANCE AND REVITALIZATION.
In view of the preceding, I find myself in little accord with yet another paper — here is the abstract:
This article argues that it is not possible to establish distinctions between “Lao”, “Thai”, and “Isan” as separate languages or dialects by appealing to objective criteria. “Lao”, “Thai”, and “Isan” are conceived linguistic varieties, and the ground-level reality reveals a great deal of variation, much of it not coinciding with the geographical boundaries of the “Laos”, “Isan”, and “non-Isan Thailand” areas. Those who promote “Lao”, “Thai”, and/or “Isan” as distinct linguistic varieties have subjective (e.g. political and/or sentimental) reasons for doing so. Objective linguistic criteria are not sufficient.
This paper is by N. J. Enfield (PhD 2000 in Linguistics, University of Melbourne), a senior staff scientist in the Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, and Professor of Ethnolinguistics, Radboud University. He has published extensively on areal and contact linguistics, semantics and semiotics, social cognition and social interaction, and linguistic anthropology. His publications include a comprehensive grammar of Lao and extensive studies of meaning, gesture, and language and culture.
The paper itself is HOW TO DEFINE “LAO”, “THAI”, AND “ISAN” LANGUAGE? A View from Linguistic Science.
In view of his clear expertise, however, I will nominally defer to him, but nonetheless reserve my prerogative to retain my resistance to his argument.
By the way, you might find this chart of the numbers of the various populations of Thailand’s Ethnic groups listed by language at Onlychaam.com to be of some interest.
As mentioned earlier, I am editing this post on May 7, 2012. Here are some other website suggestions for your posible interest:
Central Thai is considered standard, whereas Isan language is close to Lao. Northern and southern Thai have a particular accent and sometimes use specific words, but all are mutually intelligible. Most Isan or southern Thai …
Publish Date: 05/06/2012 0:46
Isan which occupies 20 provinces of Thailand, accommodating almost 1/3 of the population, has a different mother tongue than Thai. Instead Isan language is a dialect of the Lao-language. Some older people are able to …
Publish Date: 08/07/2010 10:39
Learn it in Isan or from native speakers. Sorry to correct freezacrowd, but the Isan language is not the same a the language spoken in Laos. While there are similarities, many words and expressions are distinctly different. Thai people generally …
Publish Date: 09/19/2007 16:03
Do you speak more street Thai, Isan Thai, or professional Thai? Standard Thai (Central Plains dialect). What were your reasons for learning Thai? Was stationed in Thailand during late sixties; general passion for languages …
Publish Date: 04/26/2012 17:30
During that period they did not have their own country and written language until the establishment of Sukhothai in the 12th century and Ayutthaya in 1350 AD. It was evident that the ancient Khmer were powerful at that time …
Publish Date: 05/06/2012 19:55
Dai can be used for so many other meanings and situations, in rural ISAN dai can even mean ( had sex). Again my lessons are made purely out of fun, it is how I use it, i’m sure it would be … please help me to learn more Thai I want make with you an language exchange Thai German German Thai German English, German Spanish contact me by Skype Jacky99728 or let a message here. MrBananamatic on May 6, 2012 at 11:49. Very nice video. Small suggestion …
Publish Date: 05/05/2012 20:11
Later the people, the region and their language was labeled by Siamese kings as Isan, the Pali word for northeast. Even though this region is now fully incorporated into Thailand and all residents are Thai, the Lao Isan language, unique diet, …
Publish Date: 05/24/2010 3:36
Having on the subject in “Lady of Isan. – Story of a Mixed Marriage from Northeast Thailand,” I am the first offender of my own advice. I married again… from Isan. All went well. We lived in Pattaya for a year. She got pregnant …
Publish Date: 05/02/2012 18:01
He plans to live in Isan with his new to be acquired Thai wife. After several … Polly: Spoke just a few words in Isan language, which I wouldn’t know. … Jan now dates Isan men and is still looking for a Long Term Relation.
Publish Date: 04/05/2011 3:21
THE ISAAN – Life in a Thai-Lao Village … It could be the language barrier, for when one of my brothers-in-law is over and we’re sitting around in the front of the house, people start dropping in pretty much non-stop. …. (1) history (1) Internet (1) Isaan (2) Isan (1) jahn hahn (2) karma (1) khao nio (1) Khon Thai (1) King of Thailand (1) klong (1) Lanny Kaufer (1) Lao (1) Lao language (3) Laos (1) loso (1) loudspeakers (1) merit making (1) Morlam (1) morning (1) Mun (1) net …
Publish Date: 05/05/2012 23:22
And the state of Thailand’s English-language education is such that it would make anyone who appreciates the importance of the English language feel legitimately overcome indeed. Lackluster TOEFL performance …. Since 2008 Thai government increased the requirements of foreign teachers of English in an effort to curb the influx of unqualified teachers or prevent the schools from plucking any farang backpacker off Khao San Road. English-language teachers in …
Publish Date: 03/21/2012 5:42
For the Thai language, in 2005, the highest placed Isaan province, Udon Thani, was placed 46 out of 76 provinces, and the lowest ranked Isaan province was Kalasin, ranked 73, with only the war-torn provinces of Yala, Narathiwas and Pattani …. as well as the sign of the Student Union at the Faculty and various canteen signs there, are now in Thai, Isan and English, with Thai above and larger than the other languages out of respect for the de facto national language.
Publish Date: 12/11/2011 16:01
Lao Language. Lao or Laotian is the official language of Laos. It is the primary language of the Lao people, and is also spoken in the northeast of Thailand, where it is referred to as Isan language. As most ethnic groups in …
Publish Date: 03/31/2012 23:48
laos language is laotian ? help yes no?
is it true that their own language
find the information
That is correct!! More info for you.
Lao (ພາສາລາວ phaasaa laao) also Laotian, is the official language of Laos. It is a tonal language of the Tai family, and is so closely related to the Isan language of the northeast region of Thailand that the two are often classed as one language. The writing system of Lao is an abugida (a writing system composed of signs denoting consonants with an inherent following vowel) and is closely related to the writing system used in Thai.
The Lao language can be divided into five main dialects :
Northern Lao (Luang Prabang)
North-Eastern Lao (Xieng Khouang)
Central Lao (Khammouan)
Southern Lao (Champasak)
Vientiane Lao, the predominant dialect due to its use in the capital (whence it gets its name), is widely understood throughout the country, and all the dialects are for the most part mutually intelligible.
Thai Isan Lao 泰依善老挝ภาษาไทยอีสานลาว
Uploaded by BurkhardLee on Mar 31, 2011
Thai – Isan – Lao Phrasebook. With MP3 sound tracks on CD-ROM. Asger Mollerup.
The Thai-Isan-Lao Phrasebook with MP3 sound tracks on CD-ROM is the first and only book of its kind describing three Tai-Kadai languages comparatively using IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).
Part I: Phrases.
Part II: Word lists.
Part III: Grammar by samples.
Part IV: Manuals in reading, writing, and tonal determination.
Appendixes: Alphabets compared, linguistic history etc.
Sound-tracks in 3 languages on CD-ROM read by local residents from Bangkok (Thai), Maha Sarakham (Isan), and Vientiane (Laos P.D.R) covering all texts in the book. Format: MP3. Duration: 6 hours.
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