Thai Language Blog

The Special Aw-Ang Letter Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in Beginner

This article meant for those beginners who are still learning to read Thai. The most common Thai letter, อ (pronounced aw-ang), is a special character. Remember when you were a kid and you learned that the english vowels are ‘a e i o u . . . and sometimes y’? Well, อ is somewhat like that for Thai. Sometimes it’s a vowel, but sometimes it isn’t. It can be used in any of three ways:

1) As a place holder to support other vowels

2) As a vowel itself

3) To modify the tone of a word


Note that in the following examples that not all ‘words’ are real. They were constructed purely for demonstration purposes.


1) Let’s start with the first use, to support other vowels. Go look up the list of Thai vowels, and you will see อ written for every single one. In this case, it is a silent letter used to support the vowel. If the อ was replaced with a different letter, then that vowel will have that consonant sound used with it. Otherwise, the vowel remains ‘pure’. The below example demonstrates this concept, listing a few vowels both without and with a consonant.

For example:

แอ ae
แก gae
เอีย eeya
เกีย geeya
โอะ oh
โกะ go
เอาะ aw
เกาะ gaw
อานามัย aanaamai

Note that the temporally short version of อ is เอาะ.


2) The second use of อ is when it is as a vowel itself. This happens when no other vowel is being used in conjunction with it.

For example:

ก้อ gaaw
ขอ kaaw
หมอก maawg
อ่อ aaw
เนาะ naw

The letter อ does not need to be surrounded by any other letter to make a sound. For example, the BTS station Asok is spelled อโศก. The อ sound in this case is a vowel without a consonant.


3) The third and last use of อ is for modifying the tone of a word to the low tone. This only happens when in front of the consonent ย, which in the Thai language only happens for four words. These four words are very common, so you’ll see them often – they are worth learning now if you haven’t already.

อยู่ yoo2 place, location; -ing
อย่าง yang2 similar, like, type
อย่า yaa2 do not
อยาก yaak2 want


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