King Ramkhamhaeng’s script for Thai

Ian James
© May 2010

language name in script

According to common history, this writing system was developed by King Ramkhamhaeng for the Thai language in 1283 AD, and is regarded as the very first stage of the standard written language. At that time, the kingdom’s capital was established in the city of Sukhothai. The Sukhothai period of Siam/Thailand was one of the classical periods whose artifacts are much admired today. It is a pity perhaps that in Sukhothai province today, this attractive script does not adorn more public buildings.

Consonants

The consonants are presented in the modern order. Many are familiar and retain almost the exact same form today; others have changed considerably.

consonants
consonants

Note: absent are equivalents for these modern letters:

modern

See also the Spelling Notes below.

Vowels & Other Marks

vowels etc
vowels etc

Note: C stands for a syllabic-final consonant.

Numerals

numerals

Sample text

This is the beginning of the inscription on the Ramkhamhaeng Stele:
example
“My father’s name is Sri Inthrathit, my mother’s name is Nang Seuang,
my older brother’s name is Ban Meuang. / Myself, my brothers & sisters from the same womb are five,
three boys, two girls. Older brother Pheua, / the eldest son, passed away;
Pheua was prepared but still small. When I grew up to the age of /
nineteen ... ”

Spelling Notes

Generally, and especially where there may be ambiguities, a syllable’s vowel letter(s) will stick close to the syllable’s initial consonant, and there will appear to be a slight space before any syllabic-final consonant. The clustering of a syllable’s initial consonant with /r/ and /l/ will also be written closely, as will the tone-changing letter /h/ before its consonant.

Some words are spelt differently from the modern form, which is to be expected. The older spelling may reflect different pronunciations, or just different spelling systems. In particular, long and short vowels seem to be less differentiated; some modern vowels (or spellings) seem to be absent altogether. Initial /i:/ can stand alone without initial glottal consonant, as long as a space follows.
 

King Ramkhamhaeng and the stele. 
Image copyright (c) 2010 Ian James

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All material on this page © Ian James, unless otherwise stated.
Last modified Dec.30,2010