FSI - Thai - Reference Grammar Course

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Foreign Service Institute Thai  - Image Standard Thai, the subject of this FSI reference grammar course, is the national spoken language of Thailand and at the same time an educated variety of the dialect of Bangkok, to some extent also of the entire Central Plains region of the country. As such it is the most widely known representative of the Tai language family, which extends from southern China to the Malay peninsula and includes present-day speakers in all the countries of Mainland Southeast Asia. Standard Thai, along with its written counterpart, is known to some extent to nearly all the people of Thailand, and it enjoys some status as secondary language in neighboring countries as well. As is the case with many national languages, it is difficult to state the actual number of native speakers. The usual estimate of 18,000,000 is probably accurate.

The purpose of the present work is to outline the main structural features of standard spoken Thai, the official language of Thailand, and also to elaborate by sub-classification and example those structural features which are least covered by existing grammars and dictionaries. In this latter category are the numerous minor form-classes of Thai ('sign-words,' 'functional words,' 'empty morphs,' etc.) consisting of lexical items whose arrangement and conditions of occurrence are not easily described in terms of quickly-understood grammatical labels, and whose largely non-referential meanings are not easily translated, or translatable only in terms so broad as to be almost meaningless. An index of these minor form-class members is provided at the end of the grammar.

The approach to classification of grammatical features attempts to follow current techniques of American descriptive linguistics of the 'item-and-arrangement' school. Certain insights directly attributable to other grammatical techniques (transformational, traditional, etc.) have been exploited, but the results are presented in terms of morphemes and order. From the point of view of general method and specific categories the most useful hints have been gleaned from descriptions of languages with structures similar to Thai.

Thai is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the TaiKadai language family. Some words in Thai are borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language. Thai also has a complex orthography and relational markers. Thai is mutually intelligible with Lao, though Lao speakers more easily understand Thai than Thai speakers understand Lao, because Lao speakers have more exposure to Thai.

Many scholars believe that the Thai script is derived from the Khmer script, which is modeled after the Brahmic script from the Indic family. However, in appearance, Thai is closer to Thai Dam script, which may have the same Indian origins as the Khmer script. The language and its script are closely related to the Lao language and script. Most literate Lao are able to read and understand Thai, as more than half of the Thai vocabulary, grammar, intonation, vowels and so forth are common with the Lao language. Much like the Burmese adopted the Mon script (which also has Indic origins), the Thais adopted and modified the Khmer script to create their own writing system.

While in Thai the pronunciation can largely be inferred from the script, the orthography is complex, with silent letters to preserve original spellings and many letters representing the same sound. While the oldest known inscription in the Khmer language dates from 611 CE, inscriptions in Thai writing began to appear around 1292 CE.

Thai is spoken in: Thailand

Thai is also called: Central Tai, Siamese, Standard Thai, Thaiklang

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