Northern Thai Language
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Northern Thai Language
Northern Thai
(Lanna-khammeuang.png) Kam Mueang
RegionNorthern Thailand
EthnicityNorthern Thai, Thai Chinese, Lu, Lisu, Hmong, Karen and Chin Haw
Native speakers
(6 million cited 1983)[1]
Tai Tham alphabet (standard),
Thai alphabet (de facto since early 20th century)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes

Northern Thai (Thai: ?, ?), Lanna (Thai: ?), or Kam Mueang (Northern Thai: (Lanna-khammeuang.png), pronounced [käm?.m?a], ; Thai: ?, pronounced []), is the language of the Northern Thai people of Lanna, Thailand. It is a Southwestern Tai language that is phonotactically closely related to Lao. Northern Thai has approximately six million speakers, most of whom live in the native Northern Thailand, with a smaller community of Lanna speakers in northwestern Laos.

Speakers of this language generally consider the name "Tai Yuan" to be pejorative. They refer to themselves as khon mueang (?, [xon?.m?a] - literally "Mueang people"), Lanna, or Northern Thai. The language is also sometimes referred to as phayap (, Thai pronunciation: [p:.jáp]), "Northwestern (speech)".

The term Yuan is still sometimes used for Northern Thai's distinctive Tai Tham alphabet, which is closely related to the old Tai Lue alphabet and the Lao religious alphabets. The use of the tua mueang, as the traditional alphabet is known, is now largely limited to Buddhist temples, where many old sermon manuscripts are still in active use. There is no active production of literature in the traditional alphabet. The modern spoken form is called Kam Muang. There is a resurgence of interest in writing it in the traditional way, but the modern pronunciation differs from that prescribed in spelling rules.[3]

From a purely genealogical standpoint, most linguists consider Northern Thai to be more closely related to Central Thai than to Lao or Isan, but the language has been heavily influenced by both Lao and Central Thai throughout history. All Southwestern Tai languages form a coherent dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible varieties, with few sharp dividing lines. Nevertheless, Northern Thai has today become closer to the Central Thai language.

Varieties and related languages

The Northern Thai language has various names in Northern Thai, Thai, and other Tai languages.

  • In Northern Thai, it is commonly called kam mueang (, /k?, literally "city language"; cf. Standard Thai /, or phasa Lan Na (, ? /p:.s?:.lá:n.n?:/, literally "the language of Lan Na").
  • In Central Thai and Southern Thai, Northern Thai is known as phasa thin phayap (? /p:.s?:.t?ìn.p:.jáp/, literally "the language of the northwestern region"), or phasa thai thin nuea (? /p:.s?ì, literally "the Thai language of the northern region", or colloquially it is known as phasa nuea ( /p:.s?, literally "the northern language").
  • In Lao, it is known as phasa nyuan or phasa nyon (? or ? respectively, /p?á:.s?:.?úan/ or /p?á:.s?:.?ó:n/ respectively, literally "the Tai Yuan language").
  • In Tai Lü, it is known as kam yon ( kâm.jôn, literally "the Tai Yuan language").
  • In Shan it is known as kwam yon ( kwá:m.jón, literally "the Tai Yuan language").

Thanajirawat (2018)[4] classifies Tai Yuan into five major dialect groups based on tonal split and merger patterns. (See also Proto-Tai language#Tones)

  1. most Tai Yuan varieties in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar
  2. Bokeo Province, Laos (A12-34 and BCD123-4 (B4=DL4=DS4))
  3. Mae Chaem District, Chiang Mai Province and Laplae District, Uttaradit Province, Thailand (A12-34 and BCD123-4 (A34=B123=DL123))
  4. Tha Pla District, Uttaradit Province and Xayaburi Province, Laos (A12-34, BDL1234, and CDS123-4)
  5. Ratchaburi Province, Thailand (A12-34 and BCD123-4 (A34=B123=DL123, B4=C4=DL4))


Northern Thai in its own alphabet, the Tai Tham alphabet

Currently, different scripts are used to write Northern Thai. Northern Thai is traditionally written with the Tai Tham script, which in Northern Thai is called tua mueang (? /t? or tua tham (? /t? However, native speakers are presently illiterate in the traditional script; therefore, they instead use the Thai script to write the language. In Laos, the Lao script is commonly used to write Northern Thai.

A sign written in Northern Thai, Thai, and English

Some problems arise when the Thai script is used to write Northern Thai. In particular, Standard Thai script cannot transcribe all Northern Thai tones. The two falling tones in Northern Thai correspond to a single falling tone in Thai. Specifically, Northern Thai has two types of falling tones: high-falling tone () and falling tone (). However, Thai lacks the distinction between the two falling tones, not having a high-falling tone (). When using Thai script to write Northern Thai tones, the distinction of the two falling tones is lost because Thai script can only indicate a low falling tone (). As an example, the tonal distinction between /ka?:/ ( (? ?) "to be brave") and /kâ:/ ( ( ) "value") is lost when written in Thai since as only /kâ:/ () is permitted. Consequently, the meaning of is ambiguous as it can mean both "to be brave" and "value". Similarly, /pa?:j/ (? ( ?) "sign") and /pâ:j/ (? ( ?) "to lose") have the same problem and only /pâ:j/ (?) is permitted. As a result, the spelling ? is ambiguous because it can mean both "sign" or "to lose". Such tonal mergence ambiguity is avoided when the language is written with the Northern Thai script.



Initial consonants

Northern Thai consonant inventory is similar to that of Lao; both languages have the [?] sound and lack [t].

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal [m]
? ?
? ?
Stop tenuis [p]
? ?
? ? ?
? ?
? ?
aspirate [p?]
? ?
? ? ? ?
voiced [b]
Fricative [f]
? ?
? ? ?
? ? ?
? ? ?
? ?
Approximant [l]
? ?
* Implied before any vowel without an initial and after a short vowel without a final.[what does 'implied' mean? is it there or not?]
** /k?/ and /t/ occur in loanwords from Standard Thai.

Initial consonant clusters

There are two relatively common consonant clusters:

  • /kw/
  • /xw/

There are also several other, less frequent clusters recorded,[5] though apparently in the process of being lost:[6]

  • /?w/
  • /t?w/
  • /sw/
  • /tw/
  • /t?w/[7]
  • /nw/
  • /?w/
  • /jw/
  • /lw/
  • /?w/

Final consonants

All plosive sounds are unreleased. Hence, final /p/, /t/, and /k/ sounds are pronounced as [p?], [t?], and [k?] respectively.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal [m] [n] [?]
Stop [p] [t] [k] [?]*
Approximant [w] [j]
* A glottal stop occurs after a short vowel when no final consonant is written in the Thai script.


The basic vowels of the Northern Thai language are similar to those of Standard Thai. They, from front to back and close to open, are given in the following table. The top entry in every cell is the symbol from the International Phonetic Alphabet, the second entry gives the spelling in the Thai alphabet, where a dash (-) indicates the position of the initial consonant after which the vowel is pronounced. A second dash indicates that a final consonant must follow.

Front Back
unrounded rounded
short long short long short long
High /i/
Mid /e/
Low /?/
-?, -?-

The vowels each exist in long-short pairs: these are distinct phonemes forming unrelated words in Northern Thai,[8] but usually transliterated the same: (khao) means "they/them", while (khao) means "white".

The long-short pairs are as follows:

Long Short
Thai IPA Example Thai IPA Example
-? /a:/ /f?:n/ 'to slice' -? /a/ /f?n/ 'to dream'
-?  /i:/ /t?:/ 'to cut' -?  /i/ /t/ 'to criticize'
-?  /u:/ /sù:t/ 'to inhale' -?  /u/ ? /s?t/ 'rearmost'
?- /e:/ /:n/ 'to recline' ?-? /e/ ? /n/ 'tendon, ligament'
?- /?:/ /k:/ 'to be old' ?-? /?/ ? /k/ 'sheep'
-?-  /?:/ () /x:n/ 'to return' -?  /?/ ? /xn/ 'to go up'
?-? /?:/ ? /m?:?n/ 'to delay; long time' ?- /?/ ? /n/ 'silver'
?- /o:/ ? (?) /t:n/ 'thief' ?-? /o/ /tn/ 'to be poor'
-? /?:/ /l:?/ 'to try' ?- /?/ /l/ 'to go down, to go downhill'

The basic vowels can be combined into diphthongs. For purposes of determining tone, those marked with an asterisk are sometimes classified as long:

Long Short
Thai script IPA Thai script IPA
- /a:j/ ?-*, ?-*, ?-?, - /aj/
- /a:w/ ?-?* /aw/
?- /i:a/ ?- /ia/
- - - /iw/
- /u:a/ - /ua/
- /u:j/ - /uj/
?-? /e:w/ ?- /ew/
?-? /?:w/ - -
?- /?:a/ ?- /?a/
?-? /?:j/ - -
- /?:j/ - -
?-? /o:j/ - -

Additionally, there are three triphthongs, all of which are long:

Thai script IPA
?- /iaw/
- /uaj/
?- /?aj/


The following section largely concerns the Nan dialect of Northern Thai.[9]

Phoneme Allophone Context Example using Thai script IPA Gloss
/b/ [b] onset /bà:/ shoulder
/d/ [d] onset /d:j/ mountain
/p/ [p] onset /pà:/ forest
[p?] coda /?à:p/ bath
[pm?] coda, emphasised /b l?p/ not sleep!
/t/ [t] onset /t?:/ eye
[t?] coda ? /p:t/ open
[tn?] coda, emphasised /b pt/ not spicy!
/k/ [k] onset /k?:/ crow
[k?] coda /pì:k/ wing
[k] coda, emphasised /b s?k/ not ripe!
/x/ [x] before non-front vowels /x:k/ guest
[ç] before front vowels /x/ you(familiar)
/s/ [s] onset /s?:w/ twenty
[?] under emphasis ? /s?:.tú?/ surely
/h/ [h] non-intervocalic /ha?:/ five
[?] intervocalic /pj m?: h?:/ who come find(Who is here to see you?)
/n/ [m?] after bilabial stop ? /x:p n/ span one(one more span)
[n?] after alveolar stop ? /t:m xùat n/ more bottle one(one more bottle)
[] after velar stop ? /t:m d:k n/ more flower one(one more flower)


The six phonemic tones in Northern Thai pronounced with the syllable '/law/':

There are six phonemic tones in the Chiangmai dialect of Northern Thai: low-rising, mid-low, high-falling, mid-high, falling, and high rising-falling.[10]

Contrastive tones in unchecked syllables

The table below presents six phonemic tones in unchecked syllables, i.e. closed syllables ending in sonorant sounds such as [m], [n], [?], [w], and [j] and open syllables.

Tone Standard Thai Tone Equated to[11] Example
(Northern Thai script)
(Thai script)
Phonemic Phonetic Tone letter gloss
low-rising rising ? /l?w/ [law] 24 sharpen
mid-low low /làw/ [law?] 22 forest; group
high-falling (glottalized) (none) /la?w/ [la?w] 53 liquor, alcoholic drink
mid-high mid ? /l?w/ [law?] 33 beautiful, pretty; reed
falling falling ? /lâw/ [law] 51 tell (a story)
high rising-falling (glottalized) high ? /láw/ [la?w] 454 coop, pen (for chickens or pigs)

Contrastive tones in checked syllables

The table below presents four phonemic tones in checked syllables, i.e. closed syllables ending in a glottal stop [?] and obstruent sounds such as [p], [t], and [k].

Tone Standard Thai Tone
Equated to[11]
(Northern Thai script)
(Thai script)
Phonemic Phonetic gloss
low-rising rising ? /l?k/ [lak] post
high-falling high ? /la?k/ [lak] steal
low low ? /là:k/ [la:k] differ from others
falling falling ? /lâ:k/ [la:k] drag


The grammar of Northern Thai is similar to those of other Tai languages. The word order is subject-verb-object, although the subject is often omitted. Just as Standard Thai, Northern Thai pronouns are selected according to the gender and relative status of speaker and audience.

Adjectives and adverbs

There is no morphological distinction between adverbs and adjectives. Many words can be used in either function. They succeed the word which they modify, which may be a noun, verb, or another adjective or adverb.

  • ? (mae nying thao, /m:..t?a?w/) an old woman
  • ? (mae nying ti thao woi, /m:..tî:.t?a?w.w?:j/) a woman who became old quickly

Because adjectives can be used as complete predicates, many words used to indicate tense in verbs (see Verbs:Aspect below) may be used to describe adjectives.

  • (kha hiw, [xa?: h?w]) I am hungry.
  • (kha cha hiw, [xa?: ta h?w]) I will be hungry.
  • (kha kalang hiw, [xa?: ka.l h?w]) I am hungry right now.
  • ? (kha hiu laew, [xa?: h?w l:w]) I am already hungry.


Verbs do not inflect. They do not change with person, tense, voice, mood, or number; nor are there any participles.

  • (kha ti poen, [xa?: t?: pn]), I hit him.
  • (poen ti kha, [pn t?: xa?:]), He hit me.

The passive voice is indicated by the insertion of (don, [d?:n]) before the verb. For example:

  • (poen don ti, [pn d?:n t?:]), He is hit or He got hit. This describes an action that is out of the receiver's control and, thus, conveys suffering.

To convey the opposite sense, a sense of having an opportunity arrive, (dai, [da?j], can) is used. For example:

  • (poen cha dai pai aew mueang lao, [pn ta da?j p?j :w ma? l?:w]), He gets to visit Laos.
  • (poen ti dai, [pn t?: da?j]), He is/was allowed to hit or He is/was able to hit

Negation is indicated by placing (bor,[b] or [bà] not) before the verb.

  • ?, (poen bor ti, [pn b t?:]) He is not hitting. or He not hit.

Aspect is conveyed by aspect markers before or after the verb.

Present can be indicated by (kalang, [ka.l], currently) or ? (kalangha, [ka.l.hà], currently) before the verb for ongoing action (like English -ing form), by ? (yu, [jù:]) after the verb, or by both. For example:
  • (poen kalangha lon, [pn ka.l.hà lôn]), or
  • (poen lon yu, [pn lôn jù:]), or
  • ? (poen kalan?ha lon yu, [pn ka.l.hà lôn jù:]), He is running.
Future can be indicated by (cha, [ta?], will) before the verb or by a time expression indicating the future. For example:
  • ? (poen cha lon, [pn ta? lôn]), He will run or He is going to run.
Past can be indicated by (dai, [da?j]) before the verb or by a time expression indicating the past. However, ? (laew, :[l:w], already) is often used to indicate the past aspect by being placed behind the verb. Or, both and ? are put together to form the past aspect expression. For example:
  • (poen dai kin, [pn da?j k?n]), He ate.
  • ? (poen kin laew, [pn k?n l:w], He has eaten.
  • ? (poen dai kin laew, [pn da?j k?n l:w]), He's already eaten.

Aspect markers are not required.

  • (kha kin tihan, [xa? k?n tî:.ha?n]), I eat there.
  • (kha kin tihan tawa, [xa? k?n tî:.ha?n ta.w?:]), I ate there yesterday.
  • (kha kin tihan wanphuk, [xa? k?n tî:.ha?n w?n.p?û:k]), I'll eat there tomorrow.

Words that indicate obligation include at cha (), na cha (), khuan cha ()[dubious ], and tong (?).

  • at cha (, /?à:t.ta/) Might
  • (poen at cha ma, /pn ?à:t.ta m?:/) He might come.
  • na cha (, /na?:.ta/) Likely to
  • (poen na cha ma, /pn na?:.ta m?:/) He is likely to come.
  • khuan cha (, /x?an.ta/) Should
  • (poen khuan cha ma, /pn x?an.ta m?:/) He should come.
  • tong (?, /t:?/) Must
  • (poen tong ma, /pn t:? m?:/) He must come.

Actions that wherein one is busily engaged can be indicated by (mua ka, /m?a.kà:/).

  • (kor mua ka kin han nor, /k m?a kà: k?n ha?n n/) (It's that you/he/she) just keeps on eating it like that, you know?

Words that express one's desire to do something can by indicated by khai () and kan (?).

  • khai (, /xâj/, to want, to desire)
  • (kha.chao khai kin, /xa?:.ta?w xâj k?n/) I want to eat.
  • kan (?, /kán/, to try)
  • (kha.chao kan kin, /xa?:.ta?w kán k?n/) I try to eat.

Phor tha wa (, /p:.t?â:.wâ:/) is used to give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality.

  • (phor tha wa poen pik ma laew, /p: t?â: wâ: pn pi?k m?: l:w/) It seems that he has returned.

Final particles

Northern Thai has a number of final particles, which have different functions.

Interrogative particles

Some of the most common interrogative particles are kor (, /k:/) and ka (, /k?:/)

  • kor (, /k:/, denoting yes/no question)
  • ? (muan kor, /mûan k:/) Is it fun?
  • ka ( (and its variants: , ), /k?:/, denoting confirmative question)
  • (muan ka, /mûan k?:/) It is fun, right?

Imperative particles

Some imperative particles are , ?, and ?. lae (, /l:/)

  • ? (kin lae, /k?n l:/) Eat! (Authoritative).

chim (?, /tìm/)

  • ? (khor kin chim, /x: k?n tìm/) May I eat please?

hia (?, /h?a/)

  • (kin hia, /k?n h?a/) Eat! (because I know it will be beneficial to you).

toe (, /t/)

  • (kin toe, /k?n t/) Eat, please.

Polite particles

Polite particles include and ?.

  • khap (, /xa?p/, used by males)
  • (kin khaw laew khap, /k?n xa?w l:w xa?p/) I have eaten, sir/ma'am.
  • chao (?, /ta?w/, used by females)
  • ? (kin khaw laew chao, /k?n xa?w l:w ta?w/) I have eaten, sir/ma'am.


Nouns are uninflected and have no gender; there are no articles.

Nouns are neither singular nor plural. Some specific nouns are reduplicated to form collectives: (la-orn, [la.:n], child) is often repeated as ? (la-orn la-orn, [la.:n la.:n],) to refer to a group of children.

The word ?(mu, [mù:]) may be used as a prefix of a noun or pronoun as a collective to pluralize or emphasise the following word. (, mu phom, [mù: pm], we (exclusive), masculine; ? mu hao, [mù: h?w], emphasised we; ? mu ma, [mù: m?:], (the) dogs).

Plurals are expressed by adding classifiers, used as measure words (), in the form of noun-number-classifier (?, "teacher five person" for "five teachers").


Pronouns may be omitted once they have already been established in the first sentence, unless the pronoun in the following sentences is different from the first sentence. The pronoun "you" may also be omitted if the speaker is speaking directly to a second person. Moreover, names may replace pronouns, and they can even replace the first person singular pronoun.

Person Tai Tham script Thai script Transliteration Phonemic (IPA) Phonetic (IPA) Meaning
first k?u /k?:/ [ku:?] I/me (familiar; informal)
h?a /h?:/ [ha:?] I/me (familiar; informal)
kha?a /xa?:/ [xa:] I/me (formal; used by male). Literally "servant, slave".
p?u?u kha?a /p?u?:.xa?:/ [p?u:.xa:] I/me (formal)
? kha?a cha?o /xa?:.ta?w/ [xa:.taw] I/me (formal; used by female)
? h?o /h?w/ [haw?] we/us
t?u /t?:/ [tu:] we/us (exclusive)
second ? m?en? /m/ [m] you (informal, singular)
? kh?ng /x/ [xi] you (informal, singular)
? ? t?a /t?a/ [tua] you (familiar, singular)
? cha?o /ta?w/ [taw] you (formal, singular). Literally "master, lord"
s?u /s?:/ [su:] you (informal, plural or formal, singular)
s?u kh?o /s?:.x?w/ [su:.xaw] you (informal, plural)
? s?u cha?o /s?:.ta?w/ [su:.taw] you (formal, plural)
third ? m?n /m?n/ [man?] he/she/it (informal)
? kh?o /x?w/ [xaw] they/them
pôen /pn/ [p?n] he/she (general), others
? tâan /tâ:n/ [ta:n] he/she (formal), you (formal), others
reflexive t?a kàw /t?a.kàw/ [tua.kaw?]


Northern Thai shares much vocabulary with Standard Thai, especially scientific terms, which draw many prefixes and suffixes from Sanskrit and Pali, and it also has its own distinctive words. Just like Thai and Lao, Northern Thai has borrowed many loanwords from Khmer, Sanskrit, and Pali.

word gloss origin
food native Tai word

food Pali and/or Sanskrit

? ()[dubious ]
birth Khmer

Northern Thai and Standard Thai

The tables below present the differences between Northern Thai and Standard Thai.

Different sounds

Unlike Northern Thai, Standard Thai lacks palatal nasal sound (/?/). Thus, the palatal nasal sound (/?/) and the palatal approximant sound (/j/) in Northern Thai both correspond to the palatal approximant sound in Standard Thai:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss note
difficult cf. Lao: /?â:k/
mosquito cf. Lao: /?ú?/
long cf. Lao: /?á:w/

medicine cf. Lao: /jà:/
desire cf. Lao: /ja?:k/
manner, way cf. Lao: ? /j?:?/

Unlike Northern Thai, Standard Thai lacks a high-falling tone ([]). The high falling tone ([]) and falling tone ([]) in Northern Thai both correspond to the falling tone in Standard Thai ([]).

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss
village, home
master, lord, you
tell (a story)

Different words

Many words differ from Standard Thai greatly:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss note
twenty cf. Lao: /sá:w/ "twenty"
and Shan: /sá:w/ "twenty"


older brother cf. Lao /?â:j/ "older brother"
and Shan: ? /:j/ "eldest brother, first born son"
nape cf. Lao /?n/ "nape"
nose cf. Lao: /dà?/ "nose",
Standard Thai /dâ?/ "nasal bridge".

give, let cf. Tai Lü: /h/ "to give, to allow"

look cf. Lao: /p:/ "to see, to look"
and Tai Lü: /p:/ "to see, to look"

visit, travel cf. Tai Lü: ? /w/ "to visit, to travel"

meat cf. Lao /sî:n/ "meat"

no cf. Lao: /b:/ "no, not"
like cf. Lao: /m?k/ "to like"
much, many
walk cf. Tai Lü: /têw/ "to walk"

laugh cf. Tai Lü: /x?j.hó/ "to laugh"
funny, amusing cf. Lao /m?an/ "fun, amusing, pleasant",
Tai Lü: ? /m?n/ "fun, amusing, pleasant",
and Shan: /m?n/ "fun, amusing, pleasant"
lie cf. Tai Lü: /t?su/ "to lie, to deceive"
what cf. Lao /./ "what"

child cf. Tai Lü: ? /l?k.n/ "child, young offspring"
Buddhist monk cf. Tai Lü: /t.tsa?w/ "Buddhist monk"

Similar words

There is not a straightforward correspondence between the tones of Northern and Standard Thai. It also depends on the initial consonant, as can be seen from the merged Gedney tone boxes for Standard Thai and the accent of Chiang Mai:

Ancestral tone: A (unchecked, no tone mark) B (mai ek) DL (checked, long vowel) DS (dead, short vowel) C (mai tho)
Initial Consonant Std Thai CM Thai gloss Std Thai CM Thai gloss Std Thai CM Thai gloss Std Thai CM Thai gloss Std Thai CM Thai gloss
1. High rising low-rising low mid-low low low low low-rising falling high-falling

2. CM High but Std Mid (= Std Thai ? ? ?) mid low-rising

eye /tàw/

turtle /d:k/

flower /k?ùt/

dig /bâ:/

3. Mid for Both (= Std Thai ? ? ? ) mid mid-high
4. Low /b?n/
fly falling falling falling falling high high-falling high high rising-falling

mother /mî:t/
knife /nók/
bird /má:/


Note that the commonalities between columns are features of the Chiang Mai accent. On the other hand, the relationships between rows are typical of Northern Thai, being found for at least for Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai,[12]Phayao,[12]Nan and Prae,[12] and extending at least to Tak[12] and the old 6-tone accent of Tai Khuen,[12] except that the checked syllables of Chiang Rai are more complicated.

The primary function of a tone box is etymological. However, it also serves as a summary of the rules for tone indication when the writing system is essentially etymological in that regard, as is the case with the major Tai-language writing systems using the Thai, Lanna, New Tai Lue, Lao and Tai Dam scripts.

Some words differ only as a result of the regular tone correspondences:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss

be (copula)

Other tone differences are unpredictable, such as:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss


Some words differ in a single sound and associated tone. In many words, the initial ? (/r/) in Standard Thai corresponds to ? (/h/) in Northern Thai:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss note
hot cf. Lao /h:n/ "to be hot" and Shan: /hn/ "to be hot"
love cf. Lao: /h?k/ "to love" and Shan: ? /ha?k/ "to love"

know cf. Lao: /hû:/ "know" and Shan: /h?/ "know"

Aspiration of initial consonants

Some aspirated consonants in the low-class consonant group ( /?àk.s:n.tàm/) in Standard Thai correspond to unaspirated sounds in Northern Thai. These sounds include ?, ?, ?, and ? (/k?/, /t/, /t?/, and /p?/ respectively), but sounds such as ?, , ?, ?, , ? (/k?/, /k?r/, /k?/, /t?/, /p?r/, and /p?/ respectively) remain aspirated. Such aspirated consonants that are unaspirated in Northern Thai correspond to unaspirated voiced sounds in Proto-Tai which are *?, *?, *d, and *b (?, ?, ?, and ? respectively).:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss note

Chiang Rai city and province cf. Tai Lü: /tsê?.hâ:j/ "Chiang Rai"
think cf. Tai Lü: /kt/ "to think"
spoon cf. Tai Lü: ? /tsn/ "spoon"

use cf. Shan: ? /tsa/ "to use", Tai Lü: /tsàj/ "to use"
father cf. Shan: ? /p/ "father", Tai Lü: /p/ "father"
way cf. Shan: /tá:?/ "way", Tai Lü: /tâ:?/ "way"

But not:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss note

commercial, advertisement cf. Tai Lü: /xôâ:/ "advertisement"
language cf. Tai Lü: ? /p?â:.sá:/ "nationality"
culture cf. Tai Lü: ? /w?t.t?âm/ "culture"

Dharma cf. Tai Lü: /t?âm/ "Dharma"

Though a number of aspirated consonants in Standard Thai often correspond to unaspirated sounds in Northern Thai, when an unaspirated consonant is followed by ? (/r/) the unaspirated consonant becomes aspirated:

Standard Thai Northern Thai gloss note

country cf. Tai Lü: ? /p?a.te?:t/ "country"
/xà:p/ or /k?à:p/

kowtow, prostrate cf. Tai Lü: /xa?:p/ "to prostrate oneself"
palace cf. Tai Lü: /p?á "palace"


  1. ^ Northern Thai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Northern Thai". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Natnapang 2004, Section 3.5.6 The changing pronunciation of the Lanna script and Kammuang As with all languages, the pronunciation of the written and spoken forms changes over time. This is another problem that Kam Muang speakers may have when they learn to write the Lanna script. These changes occur in only some words, and there are no readily apparent rules to explain the changes....
  4. ^ Thanajirawat, Zirivarnphicha (2018). Tonal Geography of Tai Yuan in Southeast Asia. Paper presented at the 28th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, held May 17-19, 2018 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
  5. ^ Rungruengsi 2004, pp. ?-?
  6. ^ Natnapang 2004, Section 3.5.2 Initial consonant clusters in the Lanna script
  7. ^ Rungrueangsi 2004, p. 307, but not listed by Natnapang
  8. ^ Tingsabadh & Abramson (1993:25)
  9. ^ Hundius, Harald. Phonologie und Schrift des Nordthai. Marburg: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft ;, 1990. Print.
  10. ^ Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. William J. Gedney's Tai Dialect Studies: Glossaries, Texts, and Translations. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, The University of Michigan, 1997. Print.
  11. ^ a b Rungrueangsi 2004, p. ?
  12. ^ a b c d e Li, Fang Kuei (1977). A Handbook of Comparative Tai. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications. 15. The University Press of Hawaii. pp. 46, 52. ISBN 0-8248-0540-2.
  13. ^ Rungrueangsi 2004, pp. ?, ? & 769
  14. ^ Rungrueangsi 2004, pp. ?, ? & 199
  15. ^ Rungrueangsi 2004, pp. ?, ? & 746


  • Khamjan, Mala (2008). Kham Mueang Dictionary ? [Photchananukrom Kham Mueang] (in Thai). Chiang Mai: Bookworm. ISBN 978-974-8418-55-1.
  • Natnapang Burutphakdee (October 2004). Khon Muang Neu Kap Phasa Muang [Attitudes of Northern Thai Youth towards Kammuang and the Lanna Script] (PDF) (M.A. Thesis). Presented at 4th National Symposium on Graduate Research, Chiang Mai, Thailand, August 10-11, 2004. Asst. Prof. Dr. Kirk R. Person, adviser. Chiang Mai: Payap University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-09. Retrieved 2013.
  • Rungrueangsi, Udom ( .? ) (2004) [1991]. Lanna-Thai Dictionary, Princess Mother Version ~ [Photchananukrom Lanna ~ Thai, Chabap Maefa Luang] (in Thai) (Revision 1 ed.). Chiang Mai: Rongphim Ming Mueang (). ISBN 974-8359-03-4.

Further reading

  • Bilmes, J. (1996). Problems And Resources In Analyzing Northern Thai Conversation For English Language Readers. Journal of Pragmatics, 26(2), 171-188.
  • Davis, R. (1970). A Northern Thai reader. Bangkok: Siam Society.
  • Filbeck, D. (1973). Pronouns in Northern Thai. Anthropological Linguistics, 15(8), 345-361.
  • Herington, Jennifer, Margaret Potter, Amy Ryan and Jennifer Simmons (2013). Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Thai. SIL Electronic Survey Reports.
  • Howard, K. M. (2009). "When Meeting Khun Teacher, Each Time We Should Pay Respect": Standardizing Respect In A Northern Thai Classroom. Linguistics and Education, 20(3), 254-272.
  • Khankasikam, K. (2012). Printed Lanna character recognition by using conway's game of life. In ICDIM (pp. 104-109).
  • Pankhuenkhat, R. (1982). The Phonology of the Lanna Language:(a Northern Thai Dialect). Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University.
  • Strecker, D. (1979). "A preliminary typology of tone shapes and tonal sound changes in Tai: the La-n N-a A-tones", in Studies in Tai and Mon-Khmer Phonetics and Phonology In Honour of Eugénie J.A. Henderson, ed. T.L. Thongkum et al., pp. 171-240. Chulalongkorn University Press.
  • Wangsai, Piyawat. (2007). A Comparative Study of Phonological Yong and Northern Thai Language (Kammuang). M.A. thesis. Kasetsart University.

External links

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