Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Thai from Philip's Encyclopedia

National language of Thailand, spoken by most of the population. It is closely related to Lao, spoken across the border in Laos. It belongs to the Tai family, possibly a sub-family of the Sino-Tibetan languages group.

Summary Article: Thai language
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(tī), formerly Siamese, member of the Tai or Thai subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages (see Sino-Tibetan languages). The official language of Thailand, Thai is spoken by approximately 50 million people in Thailand, Vietnam, and the Yunnan province of China. It has several dialects. Although most of the words are monosyllables, a number of them are polysyllabic. Because there is no inflection, word order is important for showing grammatical relationships. The Thai language is also tonal, and the tones serve to distinguish meanings of words otherwise pronounced alike. There are five tones: high, middle, low, rising, and falling. Over the centuries Thai has borrowed many words from Chinese, Khmer, Pali, Sanskrit, and, more recently, from European languages such as French and English. The Thai language has its own alphabet, which ultimately goes back to a script of S India and which was adopted in the 13th cent. A.D. Thai is written from left to right.

  • See Anthony, E. M. et al., Foundations of Thai (1968);.
  • Warotamasikkhadit, U. , Thai Syntax: An Outline (1972);.
  • M. R. Haas; H. R. Subhanka, Spoken Thai (1973).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article THAI
Dictionary of Languages

PERHAPS 25,000,000 SPEAKERS Thailand The best known of the TAI LANGUAGES, Thai is the national language of Thailand, spoken by the...

Full text Article Thai
The World's Major Languages

1 Historical Background Thai (Siamese, Central Thai) belongs to the Tai language family, a subgroup of the Kadai or Kam-Tai family. A number...

Full text Article Thai
The Penguin English Dictionary

/tie/ noun ( pl Thai Thais ) 1 a native or inhabitant of Thailand in SE Asia. 2 a Tai language, the national language of...

See more from Credo