Part 2: Um, an odd-looking vowel

One of the main problems of reading Thai is that the script does not place spaces between words, butrunsallthewordstogether, making it harder to decide where one word ends and the next begins.

Luckily, there are several clues we can use, mainly from the vowel component of a syllable or word. One of the most common of these is the vowel ‘um’ or ‘am’, which consists of  a circle above the consonant it modifies, followed by the same ‘า’ character we have already seen.

Yes, it’s a vowel, but it contains a consonant sound, the ‘m’. Luckily, it is the only Thai vowel to exhibit such behaviour, and really isn’t that confusing once you learn to distinguish it from ‘า’.

This vowel is quite common, and has the great benefit that when you see it, you know that you have arrived at the end of the syllable or word — nothing can follow it. The pronunciation is not as broad as ‘am’, perhaps half-way to ‘um’.

Among the common words which use this vowel are:

ดำ ‘dam’ black

รำ ‘ram’ to dance

คำ ‘kham’ a word

ลำ ‘lam’ the trunk of the body

จำนำ ‘jam-nam’ to pawn

One useful new vowel, and 2 new consonants:


ล=l (Note how this consonant looks rather like the Greek letter ‘lambda’ (λ), which is also the ‘l’ in Greek.


About macleanjstorer

Novelist, writer and journalist
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One Response to Part 2: Um, an odd-looking vowel

  1. Pingback: Part 4: A Short Vowel | Easy Thai Reading

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