After the unification of the Lao principalities (meuang) in the
14th century, the Lan Xang monarchs commissioned their scholars to
create a new script to write the Lao language. The scholars probably
modelled the alphabet on the the Old Khmer script, which was itself
based on Mon scripts.
Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet / abugida
Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
Syllables are based around consonants. Vowels are indicated with
diacritics which can appear above, below or around the consonant letters. When
they occur on their own or at the beginning of a word, vowels are attached to the
glottal stop symbol (the final letter in the third row of consonants).
Lao is a tonal language with 6 tones. The tone of a syllable is
determined by a combination of the class of consonant, the type of syllable
(open or closed), the tone marker and the length of the vowel
For some consonants there are multiple letters. Originally they
represented separate sounds, but over the years the distinction between
those sounds was lost and the letters were used instead to indicate tones.
Various offical reforms of the Lao script have reduced the number of duplicate
There are no spaces between words, instead spaces in a Lao text
indicate the end of a clause or sentence.
Written Lao is based on the dialect of the Lao capital, Vientiene.
There is no official Latin transliteration system for Lao. In Laos,
French-based systems are used and there is considerable variation in
spelling, particularly of vowels. In Thailand, the Royal Thai General
Transcription is used.
Used to write
Lao (ພາສາລາວ), a Tai-Kadai language spoken by approximately 15 million people in
Laos and Thailand. It is closely related to Thai and
speakers of Lao are able to understand spoken Thai without too many
difficulties. Thai speakers find it more difficult to understand Lao
due to lack of exposure to the language. The language family is also known
as Kradai, Kra-Dai, Daic or Kadai.
Also used to write: Tai Dam, Lave, Eastern Bru, Western Bru, Mong Njua,
Iu Mien, Jeh, Kuy, Kataang, Lü, Khmu, Western Katu, Lamet, Hmong Daw,
Ngeq, Pacoh, Phunoi, Upper Ta'oih and Lower Ta'oih
The transcription system used here is one used by the British Permanent
Committee on Geographical Names (BGN/PCGN).
Consonants are divided into three classes which help to determine
the tone of a syllable (indicated by the numbers below). The sounds
represented by some consonants change when they are used at the end
of a syllable (indicated by the letters on the right of the slash
below). The consonants can all be used at the beginning of a syllable
but only some can be used at the end of a syllable.
The consonants in the final row are compounds and conjuncts used as alternatives to the basic consonants.
Vowel diacritics (with k)
Closed syllables *
* Closed syllables are those ending with p, t or k
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason
and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)