How to Determine the Tone of a Syllable
contributed by Gregory Satir
Every syllable in a Thai word is spoken with a tone
, one of five—mid, low, falling, high or rising. Determining the tone can be complicated.
A syllable might have one of four tone marks written over it. The tone mark only partially determines the actual tone of that
syllable. You also may need to consider the the syllable’s starting consonant and possibily how the syllable ends.
Let’s start with the easy case. The third and fourth tone marks do actually determine the tone of a syllable. Just read this table:
Otherwise, syllables with the first or second tone mark, or no tone tone mark, can have more than one tone.
We must determine the class of the syllable’s starting consonant — mid, high or low. Do not confuse consonant class
, even though they use the same words.
Three Classes of Consonants
, ฅ, ฆ
, ฃ, ฉ
For more information on the classes of the Thai consonants, please see:
Now, if the syllable has a tone mark, use this table:
If there is no tone mark written over the syllable, you must consider how the syllable ends.
A dead syllable
ends with a short vowel
or one of these “stop” sounds: /-k/ /-t/ /-p/. A live syllable
ends with a long vowel
or one of these sonorant
sounds: /-ng/ /-n/ /-m/ /-y/.
Where vowel length is pretty obvious: