Pali in Thai Script

Richard Wordingham richard.wordingham at
Thu Mar 27 20:03:20 CDT 2014

On Thu, 27 Mar 2014 16:08:29 -0400
Ed Trager <ed.trager at> wrote:

> Hi, Chris,
> Besides the scripts you mention, there is also Tai Tham as Richard
> mentioned.
> In theory, writing a utility to convert Pali written in any of those
> scripts to any one of the other scripts should not be too difficult
> but ... :
> * Modern phonetically-based Lao lacks some of the traditional letters
> that are still preserved in Thai and other scripts.
> * At least as far as Tai Tham goes, it seems that Tai Tham spelling
> is not consistent with Central Thai spelling when it comes to
> Sanskrit and Pali-derived words ... I don't really know much about
> this -- just my own limited observations.

Modern Siamese spelling is highly Sanskritised.  It has also been
simplified by the elimination of final 'geminate' clusters.  There are
also quite a few differences in the reflexes of P/S /a/ in closed
syllables, and certainly the spelling of the Mae Fah Luang dictionary
reflects vowel changes that Siamese spelling simply ignores.

Having said that, some Tai Tham spelling has geminates where the
evidence of other varieties of Pali is that there should not be
geminates - what should etymologically be written <HIGH SA, consonant,
MAI SAM> is often written <GREAT SA, consonant>.  I have seen
remarks that the Pali of inland SE Asia is rather different from
that of Sri Lanka.

There are other issues, such as the merger of HIGH SA and HIGH CHA in
some varieties, so that what should be the cluster <HIGH CA, SAKOT,
HIGH CHA> actually appears to be <HIGH CA, SAKOT, HIGH SA>.  There is
also the tendency of <SAKOT, BA> to be used for other labials. 


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