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BANGKOK 26 April 2019 09:09
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Richard W

Transcribing Thai

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Simon43 proposed:

What about preceeding the syllable with a character to indicate the tone?

EG:

v = rising tone

/ = high tone

- = mid tone

^ = falling tone

forward slash = low tone (I can't find forward slash right now!!)

[He means, \ = low tone]Eg 'ma' for dog is [v]ma

'ma' for horse is [/]ma

eg - I eat a Thai meal = 'porm gin aharn thai' = [v]porm [-]gin [-]a [v]harn [-]thai

Maybe this has been covered in another post, so apologies if I'm repeating previous stuff....

Simon43's proposal is based on the International Phonetic Alphabet's scheme of marking tone by accents. The trajectory of the pitch is roughly described by the ned point of each line segment; thus

^ means high, then low

/ means high, and does not imply any variation in pitch.

Unfortunately, most fonts do not support putting the v-like symbol (caron) on vowels, so we have to stick to ASCII even though most of us could use Latin-1 here.

There are several different ways of transcribing Thai in ASCII:

1. SAMPA (especially the recommendation at SAMPA for Thai); it is an implementation of the Extended SAMPA scheme.

The implementation there numbers the tones (1 to 5) in the standard order. I prefer the alternative, of using the letters M, L, F, H, R - I find it easier to remember.

Incidentally, the recommendation given above overlooks the length difference on the /ia/ diphthongs - they don't transcribe any syllable final glottal stops.

2. soc.culture.thai scheme. Its scheme is based on the Thai tone marks on middle consonants:

Tone Markers

~~~~~~~~~~~~

- for normal tone / 0

' for low tone / 1

" for falling tone / 2

^ for high tone / 3

+ for rising tone / 4

Note that this gives circumflex a different meaning to the IPA-based scheme.

The soc.culture.thai scheme could be adopted in its entirety. (We could also allow 'g' for ก and 'c' for จ.). It's main drawback from my point of view is that I'm sure I would often mistransiterate แ as EE instead of AA as the scheme demands.

How do people feel about these schemes? I suggest that we have a short discussion, and if no consensus emerges, take a poll. Tones can be discussed independently of consonants and vowels.

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I can never understand why anyone would waste their time formulating or learning a Thai transcription system.

There were a few people on the old soc.culture.th Board who apparently were tremendously proud that they could communicate together using the system developed there - but all their effort was completely useless in the larger world outside their little clique. Certainly no native Thai could read it, and of course there are no newspapers or even restaurant menus written in their esoteric code.

Far better to use the time to learn to read true Thai script, it's no more difficult than learning a transcription system and it is immensely useful in day to day life in Thailand.

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I can never understand why anyone would waste their time formulating or learning a Thai transcription system.

There were a few people on the old soc.culture.th Board who apparently were tremendously proud that they could communicate together using the system developed there - but all their effort was completely useless in the larger world outside their little clique. Certainly no native Thai could read it, and of course there are no newspapers or even restaurant menus written in their esoteric code.

Far better to use the time to learn to read true Thai script, it's no more difficult than learning a transcription system and it is immensely useful in day to day life in Thailand.

I tend to agree. That particular system was peculiar to that group, and I for one never participated.

The problem is each one of us probably has a strong idea of what would be easiest, based on our own past experience and/or personal aesthetics.

Using Thai script works fine for me but I understand there may be folks participating in this branch who don't know Thai script. In that case my suggestion would be to use the Royal Thai General Transcription system and simply double vowels that are long (maa vs ma, for example), like a few other Romanisation systems already do.

To RTGT I would add vowels that are missing/under-differentiated from RTGT, such as /eu/ vs /u/, ditto for consonants, eg, /j/ vs /ch/. I wouldn't use /c/ for jaw jaan since most English-speakers will pronounce that letter either /k/ or /s/. [Aside: Yes I realise it's not the same 'j' as in most English words. Same argument goes against using 'g' for RTGT /k/, but at least in the case of using /k/ - which I prefer to 'g' (besides, RTGT uses /k/, with no under-differentiation) - they'e both velars. With /c/ you have three entirely different possible articulations.]

The advantage to using RTGT as a starting point is that most foreigners living in Thailand will have at least a passing acquaintance with the system as it's commonly used in highway signage and government printing for all place names (albeit inconsistently at times).

The tones could be represented by numbers, following George McFarland's classic dictionary (as well as a few other texts).

Or even more transparently, tones could be designated with the initial letter of each tone: M(id), L(ow), F(alling), H(high), R(ising). Hence 'dog' = [R]maa

Just a few thoughts ...

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I can never understand why anyone would waste their time formulating or learning a Thai transcription system.

Because the Newsgroup did not support the Thai alphabet! (I do think the correct answer to that issue would have been a transliteration schme, not a transcription scheme, but that's another issue.)

While one might regard not learning the alphabet as laziness, Thai spelling is ambiguous. For example, does เพลา rhyme with เวลา or เดา? Is it obvious that ร in สามารถ is silent? (It's one rule for Indic words and another for Farang rules - sound familiar?) For some dead syllables, one has to choose between a tone mark and a short sign when both are needed.

There were a few people on the old soc.culture.th Board who apparently were tremendously proud that they could communicate together using the system developed there - but all their effort was completely useless in the larger world outside their little clique. Certainly no native Thai could read it, and of course there are no newspapers or even restaurant menus written in their esoteric code.
I wouldn't describe their system as esoteric. Anyone who knows Thai and is familar with the International Phonetic Alphabet can grasp most of it immediately. Only the tone system is odd - it is odd because it is derived from the Thai marking system but does not use digits. A reformed official transcription scheme would come up with a similar systems, except that it might use digraphs not immediately related to their constituents.
Far better to use the time to learn to read true Thai script, it's no more difficult than learning a transcription system ...

For transcription systems based on English, I would agree.

and it is immensely useful in day to day life in Thailand.

I agree.

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Agree it's easier to learn the Thai script straight-away. My pronunciation is better and it's forced me to "think" more in Thai. Downside is I'm now having to get a pair of glasses since some script appears really small! :o

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The problem is each one of us probably has a strong idea of what would be easiest, based on our own past experience and/or personal aesthetics.

Too true! That is why I suggested tone marking be discussed independently of other issues.

Using Thai script works fine for me but I understand there may be folks participating in this branch who don't know Thai script. In that case my suggestion would be to use the Royal Thai General Transcription system and simply double vowels that are long (maa vs ma, for example), like a few other Romanisation systems already do.

To RTGT I would add vowels that are missing/under-differentiated from RTGT, such as /eu/ vs /u/,...

the official transcription system now has both 'ue' and 'oe'.
...ditto for consonants, eg, /j/ vs /ch/. I wouldn't use /c/ for jaw jaan since most English-speakers will pronounce that letter either /k/ or /s/. [Aside: Yes I realise it's not the same 'j' as in most English words. Same argument goes against using 'g' for RTGT /k/, but at least in the case of using /k/ - which I prefer to 'g' (besides, RTGT uses /k/, with no under-differentiation) - they'e both velars. With /c/ you have three entirely different possible articulations.]

The advantage to using RTGT as a starting point is that most foreigners living in Thailand will have at least a passing acquaintance with the system as it's commonly used in highway signage and government printing for all place names (albeit inconsistently at times).

The tones could be represented by numbers, following George McFarland's classic dictionary (as well as a few other texts).

Or even more transparently, tones could be designated with the initial letter of each tone: M(id), L(ow), F(alling), H(high), R(ising). Hence 'dog' = [R]maa

Just a few thoughts ...

Distinguishing the short and long vowels transcribed 'ae', 'oe', 'ue', 'ia', 'ua', and 'uea' is an issue. Perhaps we could borrow a trick from Thai and use a shortener with the tone mark. Thus we might transliterate แข็ง as [sR]khaeng (though I would prefer khaengSR). Most of these short vowels are rare. However, short 'ue' is not rare, so we might consider 'eu' for the short vowel. I have seen the contrast of 'eu' and 'ue' used in TV listings.

The 4 vowels transcribed 'o' are a problem. I propose 'oo' for โ, 'o' for the inherent vowel (except before r), 'oa' for long อ and to use the shortening logic above for the shortened version. Thus 'Top Charoen' (ท็อปเจริน) would come out as [sH]thoap [M]ja[M]roen ([sH]thoap [L]ja[M]roen to be pedantic.). 'ao' invites confusion เ_า - 'Aoi' still doesn't feel right to me. I wouldn't object to 'or' for อ ('The Nation' uses it to refer to the abbreviations of the names of official forms), but I imagine some would.

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