The Invisible Vowel Rules, part 1 Posted by palmisano on Sep 20, 2012 in Beginner, Intermediate
When I teach Thai to my students, they always freak out when I tell them about vowel locations. In English, words are pronounced left to right. You pronounce the first letter of the word first, and the last letter last. But not so in Thai! Vowels are written above, below, to the left, to the right, and even surrounding the consonants. For a beginner it’s an unintuitive concept.
Then I tell my students that sometimes the vowel isn’t even written, that it’s invisible. When they see a long series of consonants together with no vowels to be found, they start to question the sanity of whoever invented the Thai language . . .
So how do you know how to pronounce a Thai word without visibly defined vowels?
Enter: The invisible Vowel rules (Thai translation is สระลดรูป sa2ra2 lod2 ruub3). These aren’t official rules, however. I wrote these as they are as an easy way for beginners to remember and learn them.
There are four rules to this.
1) If there are two consonents, the vowel is a short ‘o’ sound such as in โอะ.
2) If there are three consonents with no vowels, the first vowel is a short ‘a’ and the second is a short ‘o’such as อะโอะ.
3) If the second consonant is ว, then replace ว with the ‘uwa’ sound, อัว.
4) If the first syllable is an *alone* consonant of ก/ท/ธ/ม/ห, and the following syllable starts with ร, the implied vowel is อ.
Examples of the first rule:
ลด – lod
มด – mod
รถ – rot
สะกด – sagod
Examples of the second rule:
ผสม – pasom
ระบบ – rabob
In this example, the first vowel is known, but the second is not. Follow the rule for only the unknown vowel.
สนุก – sanuk
สระ – sara
In the last two examples, the second vowel is already known but the first is not. Follow the rule for only the unknown vowel.
Examples of the third rule:
บวก – buak
This comes from บัว + ก
สวน – suan
This comes from สัว + น
Examples of the fourth rule:
มรดก – mawradok
This example also uses the 2nd rule. Words that use the fourth rule are very rarely found, so no need to sweat over it.
Sometimes, words use multiple rules:
2nd rule + 3rd rule