The books on Thai and Lao on this website use a system for tone markers and vowel length that was written on the computer program Fontographer. Fontographer creates original tru-type fonts which can be typed into any document.

With the tone marker system here, the tones of Thai words are shown visually with straight or curving lines above or below the word that are in the approximate position of the sound. There are five tones in Thai and also two distinct vowel lengths - long, with the pronunciation drawn out, and short with a quicker, cut off pronunciation. The short vowel length is denoted here with an asterisk rather than by vowel letter(s) as in the academic system..

There are therefore ten possible pronunciations for any syllable or one-syllable "word", although no "word" has meanings for all ten (mai and kao have the most meanings with six each).

Following are the five tones, each with two vowel lengths:

mid tone - Speak in your normal voice. The sound doesn't rise or fall..Words with mid tones have no tone marker, but if there's an asterisk it means that the vowel length is short.

 

low tone - This is lower than your normal voice. It neither rises nor falls but stays at the same low level while you're saying the word. In the tone marker system used here the word is underlined. Make the sound shorter if there's an asterisk. (In the academic system this is marked with a small downward line over the word.)

 

falling tone - Here you start at a higher level than your normal voice, then slide down to your normal voice while saying the word. Make the word shorter if it includes an asterisk. (In the academic system this is marked with a small upside-down "v" over the word.)

 

high tone - The sound here is higher than your normal voice and stays at a high level. If the word has a long vowel length the sound rises a little at the end. If the vowel length is short the sound is just high and short and doesn't rise. (In the academic system this is marked with a small upward line over the word.)

 

rising tone - Here you start low (like a low tone) and bring the sound up to a mid tone as you say the word. (In the academic system it's marked with a small "v" over the word.)

 

See the sample pages to practice using the tone markers.