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Thai or Lao? Let the debate begin

Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:11 pm
by farang84
Before getting to the question, let me preface it by saying I'm looking for a logical discussion on the topic.

Northern Thai and Isan - Thai dialects or Lao? I'm not so familiar with the ins and outs of Northern Thai, but Isan dialect seems to me to be a completely Lao dialect.


Re: Thai or Lao? Let the debate begin

Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2014 7:00 am
by PatrickK
I'll move this topic to the "Thai Language" section.

Is the debate over which one people should learn, or what we call it - Thai dialects or Lao?

Re: Thai or Lao? Let the debate begin

Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:11 am
by Tod Daniels
Well, it's a fact, more people in thailand speak one of the Isaan dialects (which there are a LOT but primarily 6 or 7) in their home than speak central thai. :shock:

Now be careful throwing out there that Isaan thai is a "Lao dialect"! You'll sure piss off the 6+ million born-bred-rice fed Laotians who speak "real Lao". :o To a person they think ANY of the Isaan dialects are just bastardized Lao :? . Also EVERY Isaan thai version is written in THAI script, not Lao script..

This question has come up on almost every thai language related forum out there. What it boils down to is;

EVERY SINGLE thai in this country who EVER attended school learned to speak, understand, read & write Central Thai (the government approved version of the language), period, end of story. I'm not saying when those kids got outta school and went home they didn't speak their local Isaan version with their friends, their families, etc. I'm stating a fact that all thaiz who attend school learn ONLY Central Thai.

This means that almost to a person, any thai you talk to is able to converse and understand central thai (even a piss-poor foreign accented version).. To me, it means that Central Thai is the way to go to learn to communicate with thaiz the country over.

Isaan ain't gonna get you very far in the south, or up in the north west (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai etc).. BUT Central Thai will work in both places just fine.

I run into foreigners all the time who say, "I have a gurl friend from Isaan, so I wanna learn Isaan thai." Well, there's NO schools teaching that version of thai out there. It's all gonna be pretty much self taught.

Not to mention the Nong Khai version, the Ubon version, the Buriram version, the Surin version, the Korat version and a couple other "versions" of Isaan thai are distinctly different. For the most part they're mutually intelligible but there's NOT just "Isaan Thai", like there is Central Thai.

Now while farang84 says he's looking for a logical discussion I might say, "Don't go looking for logic where there is none to be had; especially where the thaiz and this country are concerned".

Almost to a person, ANY Bangkokian is going to look down on someone speaking Isaan. I'm not saying it's right, I'm saying it is what it is. :oops: . Wearing rose colored glasses and pretending it ain't so doesn't change that fact a bit.. :(

I'd say you're going to get far more mileage out of Central Thai than you will any of the Isaan Thai "versions". If you wanna learn some Isaan Thai, I'd recommend getting Bemjawan Poomsan Beckers C/D work book called "Speak like a Thai Volume 5 Northeastern Dialect That will at least get you started, and you can go from there.

Good luck..

Re: Thai or Lao? Let the debate begin

Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:01 am
by farang84
Yes, every person born in Thailand learns central Thai - however, the usefulness of "Isan" wasn't the question. It was more of - for those who think it is a Thai dialect and NOT Lao, what sort of evidence is there to support that claim? I pose there is none and that Isan is 100 percent Lao, with the occasional Thai loanword thrown in.

Re: Thai or Lao? Let the debate begin

Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2014 6:02 am
by Tod Daniels
Well, your post wasn't that clear (or possibly I am not the sharpest tool in the shed ;) ). I did try to contribute in some way by pointing out the great disparity between "versions" of Isaan.

What I'm NOT is a cunning linguist! :shock: I'll leave the definitions of what is a dialect versus what constitutes a 'real language' to the experts.. Mostly because it doesn't interest me in the least. :P

However, in the spirit of keeping the discussion alive, what exactly do you base this statement on;
farang84 wrote: I pose there is none and that Isan is 100 percent Lao, with the occasional Thai loanword thrown in.
Got any evidence to back up that sweeping generalization or are you just blowing smoke? :lol:

Believe me I ain't tryin' to yank your chain :? , just tryin' to see what you're on about is all. :)

Here's an interesting piece about the comparing Thai and Lao languages by James Higbie

Just in case you don't know who he is, this is him; ... es-higbie/