Lao alphabet

Lao
Lao Script Sample.svg
Type
LanguagesLao, Thai and others
Time period
c. 1350–present
Parent systems
Sister systems
Thai
DirectionLeft-to-right
ISO 15924Laoo, 356
Unicode alias
Lao

Lao script or Akson Lao (Lao: ອັກສອນລາວ [ʔáksɔ̌ːn láːw]) is the primary script used to write the Lao language and other minority languages in Laos. It was also used to write the Isan language, but was replaced by the Thai script. It has 27 consonants (ພະຍັນຊະນະ [pʰāɲánsānā]), 7 consonantal ligatures (ພະຍັນຊະນະປະສົມ [pʰāɲánsānā pá sǒm]), 33 vowels (ສະຫລະ [sálā]), and 4 tone marks (ວັນນະຍຸດ [ván nā ɲūt]).

The Lao alphabet was adapted from the Khmer script, which itself was derived from the Pallava script, a variant of the Grantha alphabet descended from the Brahmi script, which was used in southern India and South East Asia during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Akson Lao is a sister system to the Thai script, with which it shares many similarities and roots. However, Lao has fewer characters and is formed in a more curvilinear fashion than Thai.

Lao is written from left to right. Vowels can be written above, below, in front of, or behind consonants, with some vowel combinations written before, over and after. Spaces for separating words and punctuation were traditionally not used, but a space is used and functions in place of a comma or period. The letters have no majuscule or minuscule (upper- and lowercase) differentiation.

History

The Lao script was slowly standardized in the Mekong River valley after the various Tai principalities of the region were merged under Lan Xang in the 14th century. This script, sometimes known as Tai Noi, has changed little since its inception and continued use in the Lao-speaking regions of modern-day Laos and Isan. Conversely, the Thai alphabet continued to evolve, but the scripts still share similarities. This[which?] script was derived locally from the Khmer script of Angkor[1] with additional influence from Mon, both of which were ultimately derived from the Brahmic writing systems of India.

Traditionally, only secular literature was written with the Lao alphabet. Religious literature was often written in Tua Tham, a Mon-based script that is still used for the Tai Khün, Tai Lue, and formerly for Kham Mueang. Mystical, magical, and some religious literature was written in a modified version of the Khmer alphabet.

Essentially Thai and Lao are almost typographic variants of each other just as in the Javanese and Balinese scripts. The Lao and Thai alphabets share the same roots, but Lao has fewer characters and is written in a more curvilinear fashion than Thai. However this is less apparent today due to the communist party simplifying the spelling to be phonetic and omitting extra letters used to write words of Pali-Sanskrit origin.

There is speculation that the Lao and Thai script both derive from a common script due to the great similarities between the scripts. When examining older forms of Thai scripts, many letters are almost identical to the Lao alphabet and vice versa.

According to Article 89 of the 2003 Amended Constitution of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Lao alphabet, though originally used solely for transcribing the Lao language, is also used to write several minority languages. Some minority languages use separate writing systems; The Hmong have adopted the Roman Alphabet.[2] An older version of the script was also used by the ethnic Lao of Thailand's Isan region before Isan was incorporated into Siam. Its use was banned[by whom?] and supplemented with the very similar Thai alphabet in 1871; however, the region remained culturally and politically distant until further government campaigns and integration into the Thai state (Thaification) were imposed in the 20th century.[3]

In its earlier form, Lao would be considered an abugida, in which certain 'implied' vowels are unwritten. With spelling reforms by the communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party, all vowels are now written. However, many Lao outside of Laos, and some inside Laos, continue to write according to former spelling standards. For example, the old spelling of ສເລີມ[4] 'to hold a ceremony, celebrate' contrasts with the new ສະເຫລີມ.[5]

Other Languages
brezhoneg: Skritur laoek
한국어: 라오 문자
हिन्दी: लाओ लिपि
hrvatski: Laoško pismo
Bahasa Indonesia: Aksara Lao
Basa Jawa: Aksara Lao
lietuvių: Lao raštas
македонски: Лаошко писмо
Bahasa Melayu: Tulisan Lao
日本語: ラーオ文字
پنجابی: لاؤ لپی
українська: Лаоське письмо
Tiếng Việt: Bảng chữ cái Lào
中文: 寮文字