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About Thai Language

Thai (ภาษาไทย Phasa Thai [pʰāːsǎːtʰāj]) is the national and official language of Thailand and the mother tongue of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai-Kadai language family. The Tai-Kadai languages are thought to have originated in what is now southern China. Historical linguists have been unable to definitively link the Tai-Kadai languages to any other language family. Many words in Thai are borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language. Thai also has a complex orthography and relational markers. Thai is mutually intelligible with Lao.

Standard Thai, also known as Central Thai or Siamese, is the official language of Thailand, spoken by about 70 million people (2005) including speakers of Bangkok Thai (although the latter is sometimes considered as a separate dialect). Khorat Thai is spoken by about 400,000 (1984) in Nakhon Ratchasima; it occupies a linguistic position somewhere between Central Thai and the Isan on a dialect continuum, and may be considered a variant or dialect of either. A majority of the people in the Isan region of Thailand speak a dialect of the Lao language, which has influenced the Central Thai dialect.

Thai script

Many scholars believe that the Thai script is derived from the Khmer script, which is modeled after the Brahmic script from the Indic family. However, in appearance, Thai is closer to Thai Dam script, which may have the same Indian origins as Khmer script. The language and its script[citation needed] are closely related to the Lao language and script. Most literate Lao are able to read and understand Thai, as more than half of the Thai vocabulary, grammar, intonation, vowels and so forth are common with the Lao language. Much like the Burmese adopted the Mon script (which also has Indic origins), the Thais adopted and modified the Khmer script to create their own writing system. While the oldest known inscription in the Khmer language dates from 611 CE, inscriptions in Thai writing began to appear around 1292 CE.

It is an abugida script, in which the implicit vowel is a short /a/ in a syllable without final consonant and a short /o/ in a syllable with final consonant. Tone markers are placed above the consonant just before the vowel sound of the syllable. Vowels sounding after a consonant are nonsequential: they can be located before, after, above or below the consonant, or in a combination of these positions.

Transcription

There is no universal standard for transcribing Thai into the Latin alphabet. For example, the name of King Rama IX, the present monarch, is transcribed variously as Bhumibol, Phumiphon, phuuM miH phohnM, or many other versions. Guide books, text books and dictionaries may each follow different systems. For this reason, most language courses recommend that learners master the Thai script.

What comes closest to a standard is the Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS), published by the Thai Royal Institute. This system is increasingly used in Thailand by central and local governments,[citation needed] especially for road signs. Its main drawbacks are that it does not indicate tone or vowel length. Retro-transliteration, that is, reconstruction of Thai spelling from RTGS romanisation, is not possible.

Transliteration

The ISO published an international standard for the transliteration of Thai into Roman script in September 2003 (ISO 11940). By adding diacritics to the Latin letters, it makes the transcription reversible, making it a true transliteration. This system is intended for academic use, but is rarely used in any context.

Grammar

From the perspective of linguistic typology, Thai can be considered to be an analytic language. The word order is subject-verb-object, although the subject is often omitted. Thai pronouns are selected according to the gender and relative status of speaker and audience.

Vocabulary

Other than compound words and words of foreign origin, most words are monosyllabic. Historically, words have most often been borrowed from Sanskrit and Pāli; Buddhist terminology is particularly indebted to these. Old Khmer has also contributed its share, especially in regard to royal court terminology. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, the English language has had the greatest influence. Many Teochew Chinese words are also used, some replacing existing Thai words.

Thailand also uses the distinctive Thai six hour clock in addition to the 24 hour clock.

Thai alphabet (ตัวอักษรไทย)

Origin - the Thai alphabet was probably derived from, or at least influenced by, the Old Khmer alphabet. According to tradition it was created in 1283 by King Ramkhamhaeng (พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช).

Notable features:

  • This is a syllabic alphabet consisting of 44 basic consonants, each with an inherent vowel: [o] in medial position and [a] in final position. The [a] is usually found in words of Sanskrit, Pali or Khmer origin while the [o] is found native Thai words. The 18 other vowels and 6 diphthongs are indicated using diacritics which appear in front of, above, below of after the consonants they modify.
  • 8 of the letters are used only for writing words of Pali and Sanskrit origin.
  • For some consonants there are multiple letters. Originally they represented separate sounds, but over the years the distinction between those sounds was lost and the letters were used instead to indicate tones.
  • Thai is a tonal language with 5 tones. The tone of a syllable is determined by a combination of the class of consonant, the type of syllable (open or closed), the tone marker and the length of the vowel.
  • There are no spaces between words, instead spaces in a Thai text indicate the end of a clause or sentence.

The alphabet is used to write Thai (ภาษาไทย), a Tai-Kadai language spoken by about 70 million people mainly in Thailand (ประเทศไทย), and also in the Midway Islands, Singapore, the UAE and the USA.

 

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