Chữ Thái Việt was devised by Hoang Tran and is an exercise in adapting an existing writing system to a new phonetic environment, specifically adapting the Tai-Kadai script Tai Dam to transcribe Vietnamese, a Mon-Khmer language. (Tai Dam is also called generically as Tai Viet to encompass all Tai ethnic groups in Vietnam who use this abugida to transcribe their languages such as the Thái Đen aka Tai Dam, Thái Trắng etc.) In Vietnamese this script is called Chữ Thái Cổ (Ancient Tai Script). Thái here refers to the Tai people who make up the largest minority group in Vietnam and not to be confused with the Thai people of Thailand. In Tai languages, the script is known as Xư Tay (Tai Script). Here we try to be conservative and true to the current script whenever possible, and alterations are made only from necessity and will be clearly indicated. One can also consider this as an introduction to Tai Viet from a Vietnamese perspective, since we will be using Vietnamese linguistic terms and conventions to describe the features of this script.
Tai Viet consonants called Tổ (蘇), a term borrowed from Tai, exist in low and high forms which function in tonal indication. There is no fixed order to the letters, but here we adopt the order derived from phonetic distinctions (velar, palatal…) used by the Brahmic scripts. The Latin transcriptions are in Vietnamese (Quốc Ngữ) and IPA. Since relatively minor consonantal differences exist between Tai and Vietnamese, here we did not invent any new letter but tried to pair up Vietnamese consonants to their corresponding or closest-sounding letters in Tai Viet. The name of each Tổ is made from its sound plus o or õ. The low consonants’ names are made with o and the high consonants’ with õ. Thus, it would be pronounced as
Low: co, kho, go, ngo etc…
High: cõ, khõ, gõ, ngõ etc
For final consonants (-m, -n, -ng, -nh and –t, -c, -ch, -p), the following conventions are observed in Tai Viet. Though this might seem ambiguous to someone accustomed to Quốc Ngữ, the ambiguity (-ng/-nh and -t/-ch) is an accepted convention for users of Tai Viet. The nasal consonants in open syllables do not stop abruptly and allows the syllable to potentially be pronounced with all 6 tones in Vietnamese. However, in closed syllables where the final consonants cause an abrupt stop only the sharp and heavy tones are possible.
Tai Viet vowels are indicated by diacritics or letters which appear above, below, left or right of the consonant letter. The diacritics can also exist in combination. The vowel names are given by the following nomenclatural pattern May +/k/+ /vowel sound/. So, the Vietnamese monophthongs below would be named as follows:
may ca, may că, may câ may co, may cô, may cơ may ke, may kê may ky may cu, may cư may coo
It is in terms of vocalic inventory that the phonetics of Tai and Vietnamese begin to diverge. While Tai uses a moderate number of vowels and vowel combinations, Vietnamese has relatively more, about 45 monopthongs, diphthongs, and triphthongs. Therefore, in this section, we’ll have to make alterations to the script, redefining the phonetic values of certain diacritics and establishing conventions for forming certain diphthongs and triphthongs. Alterations will be explained in the Notes section. All vowels below will be writen with the default guttural stop, /ʔ/, to demonstrate their spacial placement relative to a consonant.
Diphthongs in Vietnamese are made from the following five rules U+ Vowel, Vowel+ U, Ư+ Vowel, I+ Vowel, and Vowel + I. Since Tai Viet already has certain established diacritics and conventions for certain diphthongs, those we will keep. Otherwise, we will establish new productive conventions for creating the remaining diphthongs in Vietnamese.
Vietnamese triphthongs are likewise made from the reapplication of the above rules.
Tai languages have 6 tones which are equivalent to Vietnamese. Tones are determined by the consonant and tonal diacritics above the leading consonant or tonal letters at the end of the syllable. Both conventions are equally valid in writing Tai Viet, though the used of tonal diacritics, which was borrowed from the Lao Script, is the more common of the two.
First few lines of “Truyện Họ Hồng Bàng” from Linh Nam Chích Quái, a story of the ethnogenesis of the Vietnamese people given in the orginal Literary Chinese version, Vietnamese Chữ Nôm translation, Vietnamese Quốc Ngữ translation, Vietnamese Thái Việt translation, and English translation.
The third generation descendant of Viem De (Yan Emperor) of the Than Nong Clan (Shennong) Clan) whose name was De Minh begot De Nghi, then journeyed south arriving at the Ngu Linh (Wulinh) Mountains , where he met Vu Tien, fell in love, and married her. They begot Loc Tuc who was upright in appearance, intelligent and diligent; impressed De Minh chose Loc Toc as his successor. Loc Toc insists on conceding to his older brother, De Minh crowned De Nghi as the successor King to rule the North, crowned Loc Tuc as King Kinh Duong to rule the South, King Kinh Duong gave the country the name of Oich Quy Quoc, Great Nation of the South.
Free Tai Dam fonts
Free Tai Viet fonts and keyboard drivers
Information about Tai Dam language, literature and culture (and Tai Dam fonts)
Information, fonts, and material about Tai Viet in Vietnamese