Thai Language Reference Resources

This paper aims to examine similarities and differences between Thai and English consonants. It determines areas of difficulties when Thai students try to pronounce English consonantal sounds. It is found that English sounds which do not occur in the Thai phonology tend to pose great difficulty for Thai students to utter. Those sounds include /g/, /v/, /T/, /D/, /z/, /S/, /Z/, /tS/, and /dZ/. Sounds which exist in Thai but can occur in different environment, i.e. syllable position, are also prone to be difficult to pronounce. Such examples are /f/ and /s/. To tackle the problem of sounds nonexistent in Thai, Thai students are likely to substitute Thai sounds for the English sounds. In addition, the phenomenon where /l/ and /R/ are used interchangeably in Thai tends to be transferred in pronouncing /l/ and /r/ in English with great challenges.

Mary Haas eventually became one of the leading Thai specialists in the world outside of Thailand, taking her place in a select group that included three other towering scholars of her generation. Needless to say, each of these four possessed unique strengths and pursued complementary interests.

The late André-Georges HAUDRICOURT was a quintessential French scholar of the old school, a botanist and theoretician of diachronic linguistics; not a fieldworker, he was content to sit in his cluttered apartment and make brilliant deductions (often on the basis of crudely recorded old data) about the phonological history of all the language families of Southeast Asia, among them Tai.

The career of LI Fang Kuei followed a curiously similar trajectory to that of Haas in some respects. Like her, he was a student of Sapir, and was trained in Amerindian linguistics. He applied Western fieldwork techniques to his meticulous recording of the Tai languages and dialects of China, culminating in his reconstruction of Proto-Tai (1977); he succeeded in demonstrating the nature of the relationship between Tai proper and its closest kin, the Kam-Sui languages (1965). In China today he is perhaps most famous for having developed an influential new system of reconstruction for Old Chinese. Along with Y.R. Chao, he must be reckoned one of the greatest Chinese linguists of the 20th century.

William J. GEDNEY is the most Thaiicized scholar in this group. Perfectly fluent in spoken Siamese, he carried out extensive fieldwork on Tai dialects in the 1950's and 1960's in remote corners of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, as well as in Hongkong and Taiwan, discovering such wonders as the Saek language of Nakhon Phanom province, which alone among all known Tai dialects preserves Proto-Tai final *-l.

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