The Thai language originates from the Tai-Kadai language family. Despite the name similarities, Tai-Kadai languages, or more specifically the Tai branch that the Thai language follows, are the root for many languages, such as Lao and certain dialects of Chinese. Over half of the words, grammar, and intonation in the Thai language are the same as in the Lao language, so many literate Lao people can understand Thai as well.
The country of Thailand has seen many geopolitical changes. The northern part of Thailand is comprised of what used to be the independent kingdom of Lannathai, which is where the Northern Thai dialect is spoken. There is also a rich history of tribal and minority languages, many of which are kept alive due to minority groups preserving their heritage.
The Thai script does not use a Latin alphabet, but is derived from the Khmer script. It has a distinctive rounded look, and in appearance is close to the Thai Dam script. There is no specific way to transfer the Thai language into the Latin alphabet, so this is primarily done phonetically, as with many Indian language translations to English.
The Thai language is national language and the official language of Thailand. It is the native language of the Thai people, who are the ethnic dominant group within the country of Thailand. It is spoken by over 20 million people in Thailand, and 60 million people worldwide, including Northern Malaysia, Cambodia, Canada, Myanmar, Laos, the U.S., France and England.
In Thailand, the Thai language is used in government, and as the principal language for education. There have been many different influences on the Thai language, many to do with the religious and spiritual aspects of the country. The Buddhist religion uses the Pali language for many of its spiritual ceremonies and literature, while the Hindu religion uses Sanskrit. These two languages have been a strong influence on the Thai language, with many words being added to the Thai lexicon from these languages.
Standard Thai is the standardized version of the language, and consists of several dialects to the Thai language, based on the areas of the country. There are also several other related Tai languages, which both influence and are influenced by the Thai language, which are Isan, Nyaw, Galung, Tai Lue, Phuan, Phu Thai, Shan, Song and Thai Dam. Each of these languages can be considered a variant of the Thai language or their own languages in their own right.
The more rural areas have distinctly different sounds, but interestingly, the Isaan dialect is almost the same as the Lao language. The Thai language as a whole has a high mutual intelligibility with the Lao language, but this dialect in particular sounds almost identical.
The Bangkok Thai dialect is something of an issue when discussing language. It is either considered to be another dialect spoken in Thailand or an entirely separate dialect as it has taken on considerably more influences from other languages. There are several different registers in Standard Thai, which are Street Thai, Elegant Thai, Rhetorical Thai, Religious Thai, and Royal Thai. Most people will speak day to day a mix of Street Thai and Elegant Thai.
Street Thai is what is spoken to friends, Elegant Thai is when speaking to strangers, Rhetorical Thai is for public speaking, Religious Thai is used for addressing monks, and Royal Thai is for addressing or discussing the royal family. The royal family in Thailand is treated with a very high level of respect, and this is what you will see Thai people wearing yellow shirts for.
Why Learn The Thai Language?
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations in the world for tourists aged 18 – 30. Many of these tourists do not attempt to learn the local language even a little bit, but they would be surprised at the wonderful reception that even badly-spoken Thai will get. Many of the local people, particularly in the big cities, are used to the English language and will be wonderfully surprised if you try to communicate in their native language of Thai.
Thailand itself is a gorgeous country, which is really geared up towards tourism. You can ride elephants, take trekking tours, party on the beaches or explore the cities, which are a wonderfully crazy mix of modern buildings and old traditions. One of the most respectful things you can do when visiting a country is to learn the language and learning the Thai language is no different.