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Is there any standard system of romanization for the Thai alphabet (including consonants, vowels, tones, numbers, and their combinations), or is any such romanization system quite arbitrary? Can someone please apply the complete list? Also, are the names of (eg. chicken for the first consonant) etc... given next to the sound of each letter combination pretty standard as part of the way the Thai alphabet is taught? Thank you for your explanation, and sorry if I'm just a day zero beginner.

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    Is this what you are looking for loc.gov/catdir/cpso/romanization/thai.pdf? May 30 '16 at 20:01
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    Yes, but in view of the fact that tones are not romanized, is there a fix for that? Also, why are characters appearing in the final position romanized differently? Are they pronounced differently there? Thanks. May 30 '16 at 20:08
  • @JackMaddington: Yes just like in other languages such as Korean, consonant letters in Thai can represent different sounds at syllable end than at syllable start. Sep 12 '19 at 9:13
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The official system of Romanization of the Thai languiage is Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS). All road signs, landmarks, and so on are to be transcribed according to RTGS.

RTGS has certain pro's, likewise it uses a plain Latin alphabet, no tone marks, no vowel length marks, etc. And these are also con's (e.g. you can't read it properly when you need).

There are plenty of unofficial systems. For example, one of the prominent resources for Thai language learners, Thai-Language.com, has several systems of Romanization:

Romanization systems of Thai

Note as you see, I prefer IPA over RTGS as it provides with complete information over the tones, vowel lengths, and so on.

Yet another note: Paiboon is a publishing agency that has published a famous book for Thai language learners, so it takes its own place within the system.

A personal note: ISO 11940 is a horrible thing, Google Translate uses it, so stay way from it. :-)


As for the list of consonants and the meanings of the words, the Wikipedia article seems to be a good source:

Thai consonants

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  • What it's wrong with ISO 11940. Is it the list of supported fonts, or is there something inherently wrong in the encoding? So, what do you suggest I use instead for formatting documents and when texting on my Android phone? Thanks. May 31 '16 at 8:17
  • So what is the difference between the kho in kho khai and the kho in kho khuat? Judging just from the table, their pronunciations look exactly the same. Thanks. May 31 '16 at 8:23
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    @JackMaddington, okay, (1) ISO 11940 (in my opinion) does not give information to correctly produce the sounds. This must be an ultimate goal for any transcription. This is not an encoding, this is only a transcription system. One's smartphone is usually equipped with keyboard layouts, not with transcription systems. If you need to SMS your friend telling them "I'm going to Sattahip", just use the common spelling (which is RTGS).
    – bytebuster
    May 31 '16 at 11:04
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    (2) the difference between the consonants: all three kho represent an equivalent sound, aspirated "k". They belong to different consonant classes hence they govern the different tonal rules. (3) I never insisted that Benjawan Baker's book is a must; it's just a mainstream in Thai lang learning methodology. To me, a paper book is still good nowadays because you can draw margin note highlights. YMMV, however.
    – bytebuster
    May 31 '16 at 11:08
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    Note that every transcription is an inherently lossy transformation; once you've got "kh", you no longer know which of three kh's it was. So there's no possibility to type a transcription and get a normal Thai text. For toponyms, however, RTGS is just fine.
    – bytebuster
    May 31 '16 at 14:16

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