Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tai Sound Review: Lao

In Tai Sound Review, I will mainly discuss sound merges across Tai languages. I will use Thai alphabet to represent all Tai languages.

Lao is mainly spoken in Laos and Northeastern region of Thailand where it is known as Isaan (อีสาน).

Common Features (after Tone Split)
  • Distinction between r (ร) and l (ล). The former has become /h/.
  • Some distinction among ʔj, j, and ɲ (อย, ย, ญ respectively). The j and ɲ merged into /ɲ/, while ʔj became /j/. Thus, there is a distinction between j (อย) and ɲ (ย/ญ).
  • Some may pronounce tr (ตร) as k (ก). Thus for these people, there is no distinction between tr and k.
  • No distinction between kʰ (ข) and x (ฃ). Both are pronounced as kʰ (ข).
  • No distinction between cʰ (ฉ, ช) and s (ส, ซ). All are pronounced as s (ส, ซ).
  • Vowel reduction in words with kw and kʰw (กว,ขว,คว). E.g. kwaan (กวาน) > kuan (กวน).
  • All consonant clusters are simplified, e.g. kl (กล) becomes k (ก), except stop+w clusters, e.g. kw (กว).
  • Except for Luang Prabang dialect, no distinction between -aj (ไ) and -aɯ (ใ). Both are pronounced as /aj/.
  • Historic voiced stops became aspirated voiceless stops. E.g. *d > tʰ (ท).
  • There is no distinction between tone 2 and 5, e.g. ข่า and ค่า are pronounced the same way, i.e. kʰaa. Both have mid tone.

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