The Lao script was originally used as an abugida (consonants have implied vowels) for the Lao language, just as most of the writing systems related to it.

The Lao script is now used as an alphabet for the Lao language. There are now ways to spell all vowels and there are no implied vowels.

Apparently these changes were the result of a series of language/script reforms which also included removing many letters (which have still not been added to Unicode). The last reform was by the communist Pathet Lao after they took control of the country.

Some of this may be wrong. I'm looking for detailed sources on how many reforms they were, when each reform occured, and what the specific changes of each were.

An Internet source in English would be best but French, Lao, or Russian might exist too. I'm also interested in finding a dictionary using any of the former spellings.

1 Answer 1


For a good overview, see the document N. J. Enfield's "A Grammar of Lao" (Google Books), section 2.2.2 Revolutionary reforms. I believe, it answers all your questions, except probably a dictionary:

Note that they are not actually reforms. Instead, I would call them attempts of standardization. The difference between the two may be (vaguely and informally) explained as "reform is a modification of a prior standard".

Due to few integration between different provinces, there was no "standard language" till the times of Lao PDR. So it's hard to call Poumi's Grammar a reform.

  • Early attempts of standardization
    • Guignard’s dictionary, 1912
    • Gedney, 1940's
    • Roffe and Roffe, 1958
    • Deuve and Deuve 1960's
  • Poumi's Grammar 1967, popular after Lao PDR established in 1975;
    • Goal: minimize influence of foreign languages (mostly, Thai);
    • Goal: simplify learning to let more people to educate;
    • Moving spelling closer towards pronunciation;
      • Simplified spelling of Sanskrit/Indic loanwords;
      • Renouncing an obsolete distinction between r and l consonants;
    • Almost elimination of politeness particles and honorific pronouns;
  • No official attempt to standardize the spoken language (section 2.2.1);

For a more detailed list of particular changes, see the document "Lao as a national language" by N. J. Enfield (PDF, direct link)

Barely related note: Check how different is that from the grammar changes in Thai language, suggested in 1942.

  • 1
    Hmm "reform" is not my word, it's used in relation to this subject in the places I had read, mostly Wikipedia. And of course the topic of reforming English spelling comes up all the time despite it never having been standardized. Sep 26, 2013 at 14:34
  • bib.convdocs.org/docs/35/34909/conv_1/file1.pdf is sadly a broken link now .
    – Simd
    Feb 26, 2017 at 19:26
  • @Lembik, thanks, fixed. Apparently, the free download is no longer available, so changed the link to Google Books Feb 26, 2017 at 19:37

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