Wiktionary:About Lao

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This page does not represent official policy; it is an attempt to set down some of the standards used so far in entering Lao words with a view to standardization.


There are a bewildering variety of tones systems used in different Lao dialects. It is usually said that the "standard" dialect of Lao is based on the language of the capital, Vientiane. Even here, though, different books give different information.

In the following, I rely on the charts at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University, which usefully summarise studies by different phonologists into Vientiane tones. The system used on Wiktionary follows their amalgam based on these studies, and matches the chart here.

Lao Tones "Live" syllable (ends in vowel or sonorant), unmarked Mai ek (ອ່) Mai tho (ອ້) "Dead"/"checked" syllable with long vowel "Dead"/Checked syllable with short vowel
High consonants
ຂ ສ ຖ ຜ ຝ ຫ
˩˧ (often described as "rising"; here specifically low-rising) ˧˧ (mid) ˨˩ (low-falling) ˨˩ (low-falling) ˦˥ (often described as "high"; here specifically high-rising)
Mid consonants
ກ ຈ ດ ຕ ບ ປ ຢ ອ
˩˧ (low rising) ˧˧ (mid) ˥˧ (high-falling) ˨˩ (low-falling) ˦˥ (often described as "high"; here specifically high-rising)
Low consonants
ຄ ຊ ທ ພ ຟ ຮ ງ ຍ ນ ມ ລ ວ
˦˥ (often described as "high"; here specifically high-rising) ˧˧ (mid) ˥˧ (high-falling) ˥˧ (high-falling) ˧˧ (mid)

This is a five-tone system. Many books follow Levy 1982 in describing standard Lao as having six tones. Such systems see a distinction between "high level" and "rising" tones, which are conflated in the above chart to "high-rising".