National Thai Language Day 2023

Thailand
29 July 2023

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National Thai Language Day celebrates a vital aspect of Thai culture and is observed annually on July 29th. The national observance was declared by Thailand’s Cabinet on July 13th, 1999, as a way of showing gratitude to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great (King Rama IX) for his ideas and guidance in the use of the Thai language.

History of the Thai language

Examining the official language of Thailand can reveal a lot about where the Thai people come from and their cultural influences.

Linguistically, Thai is classified as part of the Tai–Kadai language family, which is spoken in mainland Southeast Asia, as well as parts of southern China and northeastern India. Fluent speakers of Thai or Lao will often find the other language “mutually intelligible,” similar to Scandinavian languages like Swedish and Norwegian.

In 1283, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great began modifying the Thai alphabet to better reflect the influence of Pali and Sanskrit languages. These languages are used in Buddhist scripture, creating a direct connection between the Buddhist faith and the Thai language.

Thai alphabet and numbers

Colorful foam sheets jigsaw with Thai alphabets
Source: andy0man / Shutterstock.com

In Thai language, there are 44 consonants, 21 vowels, and five superscript characters that modify tone and vowel length.

Similar to English, Thai sentences are constructed left to right and have phonetic words. Unlike English, Thai words can have vowels that appear before, after, above, and below the consonant and Thai sentences do not have any formal punctuation.

Here are some Thai words about National Thai Language Day that you should know:

  • ภาษา (phasa) – “language”
  • ตัวอักษร (tua aksorn) – “alphabet” 
  • สระ (sara) – “vowel”
  • พยัญชนะ (phyan-chana) – “consonant”
  • วรรณยุกต์ (wanna-yuk) – “tone mark”

Cultural preservation

On July 29th, 1962, King Rama IX had taken part in a discussion “Problems in the Use of Thai Words,” at an academic conference of the Thai Language Club in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, where he expressed his interest in the preservation of Thai cultural heritage. Because of this occasion, National Thai Language Day was declared as a way of showing gratitude to King Rama IX’s linguistic insights and concerns.

Therefore, Thai Language Day contributes to the promotion, recognition, and conservation of the Thai language, which is an important part of Thailand’s cultural identity, and asset. The official use of Thai is regulated by the Royal Society of Thailand’s Academy of Arts (🇹🇭).