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In school we have been practicing spelling lately.  Sometimes the words are easy to spell based on the sound and tone.  Other words simply need to be memorized and this is further complicated by the fact that there are many consonants that make the same sound.  For example, five consonants for the initial ‘k’ sound (ข, ฃ, ค, ฅ, ฆ), 4 consonants for the initial ‘s’ sound (ซ, ศ, ษ, ส), and 5 consonants for the initial ‘t’ sound (ฑ, ฒ, ถ, ท, ธ).  The choice is even more difficult when choosing consonants for the ending syllable sound.  There are six consonants for ‘k’, six consonants for ‘n’, six consonants for ‘p’, and seventeen consonants for ‘t’!  Then there are the words that have a gaa-ran (Thai:การันต์) over one or more consonants.  This symbol serves to silence the consonant so it is not pronounced.

This makes it seem like learning to spell is a nearly impossible task.  Memorization is still needed but once the tone is figured out, the possibilities for spelling a word are greatly reduced.  So, here’s a chart that can be used to help figure out how to spell words.

  1. Low Tone
    1. MIDDLE + DEAD
    2. อ + ย + DEAD
    3. MIDDLE + ่ + LIVE
    4. อ + ย +  ่ + LIVE
    5. HIGH + DEAD
    6. ห + (งนมรยญวล) + DEAD
    7. HIGH + ่ + LIVE
    8. ห + (งนมรยญวล) +  ่ + LIVE
  2. Middle Tone
    1. MIDDLE + LIVE
    2. LOW + LIVE
  3. High Tone
    1. LOW + SHORT + DEAD
    2. LOW + ้
    3. MID + ๊
  4. Rising Tone
    1. HIGH + LIVE
    2. ห + (งนมรยญวล) + LIVE
    3. MID + ๋
  5. Falling Tone
    1. LOW + LONG + DEAD
    2. LOW + ่
    3. MIDDLE + ้
    4. HIGH + ้
    5. ห + (งนมรยญวล) +  ้

Note that in the above rules, ‘ห’ is used to change a low class consonant to a high class consonant and ‘อ’ is used to change the low class consonant ‘ย’ to middle class.  When ‘อ’ and ‘ห’ are used to change the class of a consonant they are silent.

Also note that the tone marks ‘ ๋’ and ‘ ๊’ only ever appear over middle class consonants.

There are only four words where ‘อ’ is used to change ‘ย’ to middle class and they are all pronounced with a low tone.  They are:

  1. อยาก – want / desire
  2. อย่า – do not / prohibit
  3. อย่าง – type / kind
  4. อยู่ – to be (somewhere) / live / occupy

Final Consonant Sounds

In the Thai language, each consonant can have two sounds depending on if it is starting a syllable or ending a syllable.  For example, ผัก (pàk) and ไก่ (gài).  In the first word, ก makes a ‘k’ sound.  In the second word, ก makes a ‘g’ sound.  This makes learning the alphabet twice as hard 😧  But not really, because many consonants have the same starting and ending sound.  By assuming the ending consonant sound is the same as the initial consonant sound with these exceptions, it is much easier:

  1. Initial sounds ‘b’ and ‘bp’, and ‘f’ make final sound ‘p’
  2. Initial sounds ‘ch’, ‘d’, ‘dt’, ‘j’, and ‘s’ make final sound ‘t’
  3. Initial sound ‘g’ makes final sound ‘k’
  4. Initial sounds ‘l’ and ‘r’ make final sound ‘n’
  5. ญ (yaw yǐng) makes final sound ‘n’

The above covers 4 out of the 8 possible consonant ending sounds.  The other four sounds are: ‘ng’, ‘m’, ‘y’, and ‘w’

Here are some references:

  1. Thai Alphabet
  2. Consonant Endings