Most tonal languages have tone sandhi, which consists of rules whereby the standard/default/dictionary tones of words/syllables change due to which tones occur in adjacent words/syllables.

But I am unable to find any language courses, wikis, linguistics papers, or any other materials on the processes of tone sandhi in the Lao language.

Does anybody know of a reference where I can read up on this topic?

  • I have found none, but I have seen in the "Lao Best" dictionaries from Google Play (I think the only one that has Laotian (audio) pronunciation and goes both ways) the word for kind-hearted, ໃຈດີ caydii, which according to the writing tone rules should be low tone low tone, is pronounced as low rising then low tone. I am just starting this language and researching this question myself. Possibly related is also the low level tone in some speakers pronounced as low rising, which I have verified only in the interrogative particle boo ບໍ, apparently speaker consistent in the same region/background Apr 8, 2021 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


Thai and Lao are prime areas of exploration for the interface of lexical and post-lexical tone phonology. There does seem to be a lack of tone sandhi in the same way that many varieties of Chinese, such as Standard Mandarin or mainstream Xiamen (Amoy) & Taiwanese Hokkien / Southern Min have.

But Lao does have some interesting features in its synchronic post-lexical tone phonology. One 1994 overview on Vientiane Lao from 上田玲子 (Reiko Ueda), under section 4.3.6., states:


(my very rough translation):

However, even in the case of {tone} 1, if it is in a compound syllable word or in a sentence, it will be a low rising tone [23] or a low level tone [22] instead of a low rising tone [24]. In other words, the only difference is whether the low rising tone [23] rises a lot or a little.

The example cited is ຫຼັງຄາ rangkha, "roof" (Japanese: 屋根), transcribed as /laŋ22kʰaː34/ , which is made up of ຫຼັງ rang "back" (Japanese: 後ろ), with tone [24], and ຄາ kha "foot" (Japanese: 足), tone [24] too.

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