Lao, sometimes referred to as Laotian (, 'Lao' or , 'Lao language'), is a Kra–Dai language of the
Lao people The Lao people are a Tai ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, ...
. It is spoken in
Laos , national_anthem = "Pheng Xat Lao "Pheng Sat Lāo" () is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that officially symbolizes a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often r ...

, where it is the
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
for around 7 million people, as well as in northeast
Thailand Thailand ( th, ประเทศไทย), historically known as Siam, () officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia. It is located at the centre of the Mainland Southeast Asia, Indochinese Peninsula, spanning , wi ...

, where it is used by around 23 million people, usually referred to as
Isan Northeast Thailand or Isan (Isan language, Isan/ th, อีสาน, ; lo, ອີສານ; also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali ''īsānna'' or Sanskrit ईशान्य ''īśānya'' "northeast") consist ...
. Lao serves as a
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from , , from the word , 'disco ...
among the citizens of Laos, who also speak approximately 90 other languages, many of which are unrelated to Lao. It is a
tonal Tonal may refer to: * Tonal (mythology), a concept in the belief systems and traditions of Mesoamerican cultures, involving a spiritual link between a person and an animal * Tonal language, a type of language in which pitch is used to make phonemic ...
analytic language In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods fo ...
, similar to other Kra-Dai languages as well as to
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...

. Spoken Lao is
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Isan Northeast Thailand or Isan (Isan language, Isan/ th, อีสาน, ; lo, ອີສານ; also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali ''īsānna'' or Sanskrit ईशान्य ''īśānya'' "northeast") consist ...
, fellow
Southwestern Tai languages The Southwestern Tai, Southwestern Thai or Thai languages are an established branch of the Tai languages of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregio ...
, to such a degree that their speakers are able to effectively communicate with one another speaking their respective languages. These languages are written with slightly different scripts but are linguistically similar and effectively form a
dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of langua ...
. Although there is no official standard, the
Vientiane Vientiane ( , ; lo, wikt:ວຽງຈັນ, ວຽງຈັນ, ) is the capital city, capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1573, due to fears of a ...

dialect became the
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
standard language in
, and the Khonkaen dialect became the de facto standard language in
Isan Northeast Thailand or Isan (Isan language, Isan/ th, อีสาน, ; lo, ອີສານ; also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali ''īsānna'' or Sanskrit ईशान्य ''īśānya'' "northeast") consist ...
in the second half of the 20th century.


The Lao language falls within the Lao-Phuthai group of languages, including its closest relatives,
Phuthai Phu Thai (Phuu Thai; Thai, Phu Thai: ''Phasa Phuthai'', ภาษาผู้ไท or ภูไท) is a Southwestern Tai languages, Southwestern Tai language spoken in Laos and Thailand. Although it appears different from the Isan language, Is ...
(BGN/PCGN ''Phouthai'') and Tai Yo. Together with Northwestern Tai—which includes
Shan Shan may refer to: People *Shan (surname), or 单 in Chinese, a Chinese surname *Shan, a variant of the Welsh given name usually spelled Siân *Occasionally used as a short form of Shannen/Shannon (given name), Shannon Ethnic groups *Shan people ...
, Ahom and most Dai languages of China, the Chiang Saen languages—which include Standard Thai, Khorat Thai and Tai Lanna—and Southern Tai form the
Southwestern The points of the compass are the vectors Vector may refer to: Biology *Vector (epidemiology), an agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; a disease vector *Vector (molecular biology), a DNA mole ...
branch of Tai languages. Lao (including Isan) and Thai, although they occupy separate groups, are mutually intelligible and were pushed closer through contact and Khmer influence, but all Southwestern Tai languages are mutually intelligible to some degree. The Tai languages also include the languages of the
ZhuangZhuang may refer to: *Zhuang people (or Bouxcuengh people), ethnic group in China *Zhuang languages *Zhuang logogram *Zhuang Zhou, ancient Chinese philosopher *Zhuang (surname) (庄/莊), a Chinese surname {{disambiguation Language and nationality ...
, which are split into the Northern and
Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions and generalised locations * Central Africa, a region in the centre of Africa ...
branches of the Tai languages. The Tai languages form a major division within the
Kra-Dai language family
Kra-Dai language family
, distantly related to other languages of southern China, such as the Hlai and Be languages of
Hainan Hainan (, ; ) is the smallest and southernmost province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational enti ...

and the Kra and Kam-Sui languages on the Chinese Mainland and in neighbouring regions of northern Vietnam.


Tai migration (8th—12th century)

The ancestors of the Lao people were speakers of Southwestern Tai dialects that migrated from what is now southeastern China, specifically what is now
Guangxi Guangxi (; alternately romanized as Kwanghsi; ; za, Gvangjsih), officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), is an autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, uni ...

and northern
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

where the diversity of various Tai languages suggests an ''
Urheimat In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed changes i ...
''. The Southwestern Tai languages began to diverge from the Northern and Central branches of the Tai languages, covered mainly by various
Zhuang languages The Zhuang languages (; autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, in ...
, sometime around 112 AD, but likely completed by the sixth century.Edmondson, J.A. and Gregerson, K.J. (2007). The Languages of Vietnam: Mosaics and Expansions in ''Language and Linguistics Compass'', 1(0). pp. 727-749. Due to the influx of
Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the directions north North is one of the four ...
soldiers and settlers, the end of the Chinese occupation of Vietnam, the fall of
Jiaozhi Jiaozhi (standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Man ...
and turbulence associated with the decline and fall of the
Tang Dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
led some of the Tai peoples speaking Southwestern Tai to flee into Southeast Asia, with the small-scale migration mainly taking place between the eighth and twelfth centuries. The Tais split and followed the major river courses, with the ancestral Lao originating in the Tai migrants that followed the
Mekong River The Mekong or Mekong River is a trans-boundary river A transboundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. Bangladesh has the highest number of these rive ...

Mekong River

Divergence and convergence

As the Southwestern Tai-speaking peoples diverged, following paths down waterways, their dialects began to diverge into the various languages today, such as the Lao-Phuthai languages that developed along the Mekong River and includes Lao and its Isan sub-variety and the Chiang Saen languages which includes the Central Thai dialect that is the basis of Standard Thai. Despite their close relationship, there were several phonological divergences that drifted the languages apart with time such as the following examples:Pittayaporn, P. (2009)
Proto-Southwestern-Tai Revised: A New Reconstruction
in ''Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society'' Vol II. pp. 121-144. Canberra, Australia: Pacific Linguistics.
Greenhill, S.J., Blust. R, & Gray, R.D. (2008). The Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database: From Bioinformatics to Lexomics. ''Evolutionary Bioinformatics'', 4:271-283.Jonsson, Nanna L. (1991) Proto Southwestern Tai. Ph.D dissertation, available from UMI. PSWT *''ml'' > Lao /m/, > Thai /l/ * *''mlɯn'', 'slippery' > ''muen'' ( ''mun'', ), > ''luen'' (, ) PSWT *''r'' (initial) > Lao /h/, > Thai /r/ * *''raːk'', 'to vomit' > ''hak'' (, ), > ''rak'' (, ) PSWT *''ɲ'' > Lao /ɲ/, > Thai /j/ * *''ɲuŋ'', 'mosquito' > ''nyung'' (, ), > ''yung'' (, ) Similar influences and proximity allowed for both languages to converge in many aspects as well. Thai and Lao, although separated, passively influenced each other through centuries of proximity. For instance, the Proto-Southwestern Tai *''mlɛːŋ'' has produced the expected Lao /m/ outcome ''maeng'' ( ''mèng'', ) and the expected Thai /l/ outcome ''laeng'' ( ), although this is only used in Royal Thai or restricted academic usage, with the common form ''malaeng'' ( ), actually an archaic variant. In slang and relaxed speech, Thai also has ''maeng'' ( ), likely due to influence of Lao. Thai and Lao also share similar sources of loan words. Aside from many of the deeply embedded Sinitic loan words adopted at various points in the evolution of Southwestern Tai at the periphery of Chinese influence, the Tais in Southeast Asia encountered the Khmer. Khmer loan words dominate all areas and registers of both languages and many are shared between them. Khmer loan words include body parts, urban living, tools, administration and local plants. The Thai, and likely the Lao, were able to make Khmer-style coinages that were later exported back to Khmer.Huffman, F.E. (1973). Thai and Cambodian—A Case of Syntactic Borrowing? in ''Journal of the American Oriental Society'', 93(4), pp. 488-509. American Oriental Society. The heavy imprint of Khmer is shown in the genetics of Tai speakers, with samples from Thai and Isan people of Lao descent showing proof of both the Tai migration but also intermarriage and assimilation of local populations. Scholars such as Khanittanan propose that the deep genetic and linguistic impact of the autochthonous Khmer and their language indicates that the earliest days of Ayutthaya had a largely bilingual population. Although evidence and research in Lao is lacking, major Lao cities were known to have been built atop existing Khmer settlements, suggesting assimilation of the locals. Isan and Lao commonly use a Khmer loan not found in Thai, ''khanong'' ( ''khanông'', ), 'doorframe', from Khmer ''khnâng'' (, ), which means 'building', 'foundation' or 'dorsal ridge'. Indic languages also pushed Thai and Lao closer together, particularly Sanskrit and Pali loan words that they share. Many Sanskrit words were adopted via the Khmer language, particularly concerning Indian concepts of astrology, astronomy, ritual, science, kingship, art, music, dance and mythology. New words were historically coined from Sanskrit roots just as European languages, including English, share Greek and Latin roots used for these purposes, such as 'telephone' from Greek roots ''tēle'', 'distant' and ''phōnē'' which was introduced in Thai as ''thorasap'' (, ) and spread to Isan as ''thorasap'' ( ''thôrasap'', ) from Sanskrit ''dura'' (, ), 'distant', and ''śabda'' (, ), 'sound'. Indic influences also came via
Pali Pali () is a Middle Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasion theory (disambiguat ...
, the
liturgical language A sacred language, holy language or liturgical language is any language that is cultivated and used primarily in church service or for other religion, religious reasons by people who speak another, primary language in their daily lives. Concep ...
Theravada Buddhism Theravāda (; Pāli Pali () is a Middle Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan liturgical language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of the ''Pāli Canon'' or ''Tripiṭaka, Tipiṭaka'' as wel ...
. The effects of Khmer and Indic vocabulary did not affect all the Tai languages of Southeast Asia equally. The Tai Dam of northern Vietnam were shielded from the influence of the Khmer language and the Indic cultural influences that came with them and remain traditionally a non-Buddhist people. Although the Tai Dam language is a Chiang Saen language, albeit with a lexicon and phonology closer to Lao, the lack of Khmer, Sanskrit and Pali loan words makes the language unintelligible to Thai and Lao speakers.Diller, A. V. N., Edmondson, J. A. & Luo, Y. (2004) ''Tai-Kadai languages.'' (pp. 49–56). New York, NYC: Routledge.

Lan Xang (1354—1707)

Taking advantage of rapid decline in the Khmer Empire, Phra Chao Fa Ngoum ( ) defeated the Khmer and united the Tai ''mueang'' of what is now Laos and Isan into the mandala kingdom of
Lan Xang existed as a unified kingdom from 1353 to 1707. For three and a half centuries, Lan Xang was one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The meaning of the kingdom's name alludes to the power of the kingship and formidable war machine of the ea ...
in 1354. Fa Ngoum was a grandson of the ruler of Muang Xoua (RTGS ''Mueang Sawa''), modern-day Louang Phrabang. Lan Xang was powerful enough to thwart Siamese designs from their base at Sukhothai and later Ayutthaya. Khmer, and Sanskrit via Khmer, continued to influence the Lao language. Since Fa Ngoum was raised in the Khmer court, married to a Khmer princess and had numerous Khmer officials in his court, a now-extinct speech register known as ''raxasap'' ( ) was developed to address or discuss the king and high-ranking clergy. Khmer and Sanskrit also contributed many belles-lettres as well as numerous technical, academic and cultural vocabulary, thus differentiating the Lao language from the tribal Tai peoples, but pushing the language closer to Thai, which underwent a similar process. The end of the Lao monarchy in 1975 made the Lao ''raxasap'' obsolete, but as Thailand retains its monarchy, Thai '' rachasap'' is still active. The 16th century would see the establishment of many of the hallmarks of the contemporary Lao language. Scribes abandoned the use of written Khmer or Lao written in the Khmer alphabet, adopting a simplified, cursive form of the script known as '' Tai Noi'' that with a few modifications survives as the
Lao script Lao script or Akson Lao ( lo, ອັກສອນລາວ, links=no ) is the primary script used to write the Lao language Lao, sometimes referred to as Laotian (, 'Lao' or , 'Lao language'), is a Kra–Dai language of the Lao people ...
.Phra Ariyuwat. (1996). ''Phya Khankhaak, the Toad King: A Translation of an Isan Fertility Myth in Verse .'' Wajuppa Tossa (translator). (pp. 27–34). Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press. Lao literature was also given a major boost with the brief union of Lan Xang with Lan Na during the reign of Xay Xétthathirat ( ) (1546–1551). The libraries of
Chiang Mai Chiang Mai (, from th, เชียงใหม่ , nod, ), sometimes written as Chiengmai or Chiangmai, is the largest city in northern Thailand Northern Thailand ) , royal_anthem = '' Sansoen Phra Barami''( en, "Glorify ...

Chiang Mai
were copied, introducing the ''tua tham'' (BGN/PCGN ''toua tham'') or 'dharma letters' which was essentially the Mon-influenced script of Lan Na but was used in Lao specifically for religious literature. The influence of the related Tai Lan Na language was strengthened after the capitulation of Lan Na to the Burmese, leading many courtiers and people to flee to safety to Lan Xang.

Theravada Buddhism

Lan Xang was religiously diverse, with most of the people practicing
Tai folk religion The Tai folk religion, or Satsana Phi ( lo, ສາສະໜາຜີ, links=no; th, ศาสนาผี, links=no, , "religion of spirits"), or Ban Phi (in Ahom language The Ahom language or Tai-Ahom language is a dead language that was spok ...
albeit somewhat influenced by local Austroasiatic animism, as well as the
Brahmanism The historical Vedic religion (also known as Vedicism, Vedism or ancient Hinduism), and subsequently Brahmanism (also spelled as Brahminism), constituted the religious ideas and practices among some of the Indo-Aryan peoples Indo-Aryan ...
Mahayana Buddhism Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhism, Buddhist traditions, Buddhist texts#Mahāyāna texts, texts, Buddhist philosophy, philosophies, and practices. Mahāyāna Buddhism developed in India (c. 1st century BCE on ...
introduced via the Khmer and Theravada Buddhism which had been adopted and spread by the
Mon people The Mon ( mnw, မန်; my, မွန်လူမျိုး‌, ; th, มอญ, ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or person ...
. Although Lao belief is that the era of Lan Xang began the period of Theravada Buddhism for the Lao people, it was not until the mid-
sixteenth century '', by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–06, one of the world's best-known paintings : Mughal Army artillerymen during the reign of Akbar, Jalaluddin Akbar the Great The 16th century begins with the Julian calendar, Julian year 1501 (Roman numerals, M ...
that the religion had become the dominant religion. The earliest and continuously used Theravada temple, ''Vat Vixoun'' was built in 1513 by King Vixounnarat () (1500-1521). His successor, Phôthisarat () (1520-1550), banned Tai folk religion and destroyed important
animist Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...

shrines, diminished the role of the royal
Brahmins Brahmin (; sa, ब्राह्मण, brāhmaṇa) are a varna Varna may refer to: Places Europe * Varna, Bulgaria, a large city in Bulgaria. ** Varna Province **Varna Municipality **Gulf of Varna **Lake Varna *Vahrn, or Varna, a munic ...

and promoted Theravada Buddhism. Phôthisarat married a princess of Lan Na, increasing contact with the kingdom that had long adopted the religion via contacts with the
Mon people The Mon ( mnw, မန်; my, မွန်လူမျိုး‌, ; th, มอญ, ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or person ...
, a process that would continue when Phôthisarat's son assumed the thrones of Lan Xang and Lan Na. With Theravada Buddhism came its liturgical language, Pali, an Indic language derived from the
Prakrit The Prakrits (; Early Brahmi 𑀧𑁆𑀭𑀸𑀓𑀾𑀢, ''prākṛta''; Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, ...
. Many Pali terms existed alongside earlier Sanskrit borrowings or were Sanskritized, leading to doublets such as Sanskrit ''maitri'' ( ) and Pali ''metta'' ( ), both of which signify 'loving kindness' although the Sanskrit term is more generally used for 'friendship'. The spread of Theravada Buddhism spread literacy, as monks served as teachers, teaching reading and writing as well other basic skills to village boys, and the Tai Noi script was used for personal letters, record-keeping and signage, as well as to record short stories and the '' klon'' ( ) poetry that were often incorporated into traditional folksongs.

Lao Three Kingdoms period (1713—1893)

Despite the long presence of Lan Xang and Lao settlements along the riverbanks, the
Khorat Plateau The Khorat Plateau ( th, ที่ราบสูงโคราช) is a plateau in the northeastern Thailand, Thai region of Isan. The plateau forms a natural region, named after the short form of Nakhon Ratchasima, a historical barrier controlli ...
remained depopulated since the
Post-Angkor Period The post-Angkor period of Cambodia ( km, ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាក្រោយសម័យអង្គរ), also called the Middle Period and Dark Age ( km, យុគ្គអន្ធកាល, link=no), and ''Vigilantism Vi ...
and a long series of droughts during 13th—15th centuries. The Lao settlements were found only along the banks of the Mekong River and in the wetter northern areas such as Nong Bua Lamphu, Loei,
Nong Khai Nong Khai ( th, เทศบาลเมืองหนองคาย; 'Nong Khai Town' or 'Nong Khai') is a city in northeast Thailand. It is the capital of Nong Khai Province. Nong Khai city is administered as Mueang Nong Khai District. Nong ...
, with most of the population inhabiting the wetter left banks. This began to change when the golden age of Lao prosperity and cultural achievements under King Sourignavôngsa ( ) (1637-1694) ended with a successional dispute, with his grandsons, with Siamese intervention, carving out their separate kingdoms in 1707. From its ashes arose the kingdoms of Louang Phrabang,
Vientiane Vientiane ( , ; lo, wikt:ວຽງຈັນ, ວຽງຈັນ, ) is the capital city, capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1573, due to fears of a ...
and later in 1713, the Champasak. The arid hinterlands, deforested and depopulated after a series of droughts likely led to the collapse of the Khmer Empire, was only occupied by small groups of Austroasiatic peoples and scattered outposts of Lao ''mueang'' in the far north. In 1718, Mueang Suwannaphum ( ''Muang Suovannaphoum'', ) in 1718 in what is now
Roi Et Province Roi Et ( th, ร้อยเอ็ด, ) is one of Thailand's seventy-six provinces (''changwat'') lies in central northeastern Thailand also called Isan. Neighboring provinces are (from north clockwise) Kalasin, Mukdahan, Yasothon Province, ...
, was founded as an outpost of Champasak, establishing the first major Lao presence and the beginning of the expansion of Lao settlement along the ( ) and () rivers. The bulk of the Lao, however, settled after 1778 when King
Taksin King Taksin the Great ( th, สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช, , ) or the King of Thonburi ( th, สมเด็จพระเจ้ากรุงธนบุรี, ; ; Teochew: Dên Chao; Vietnamese ...
, Siamese king during the
Thonburi Period The Kingdom of Thonburi (Thai: ธนบุรี ) was a Siamese kingdom after the downfall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom by Burmese–Siamese War (1765–67), the Konbaung Burmese invaders. The kingdom was founded by Taksin, King Taksin the Great, ...
(1767—1782) conquered Champasak and Vientiane and raided Phuan areas for slaves, seizing the
Emerald Buddha The Emerald Buddha ( th, พระแก้วมรกต , or ) is an image of the meditating Gautama Buddha Gautama Buddha, popularly known as the Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni) ...

Emerald Buddha
Phra Bang The Phra Bang ("Royal Buddha Image in the Dispelling Fear mudra)," Lao ( ພະ + wikt:ບາງ, ບາງ) is the Palladium (mythology), palladium of Laos. The Lao-language name for the image has been transliterated in a number of ways, includin ...
(although the latter was eventually returned) and forcing some of the Lao across the river to settle in Isan. Louang Phrabang was spared most of the destruction by submitting to Siamese overlordship. Although the kingdoms remained nominally autonomous, the Siamese demanded tribute and taxes, kept members of the respective royal houses as hostages to ensure loyalty and required the three Lao kings to come to the capital several times a year to hold an audience with the Siamese king. When the kingdoms revolted, the Siamese armies retaliated by rounding up entire villages, tattooing them to mark them as slaves and forced to settle what is now Isan, forced to serve as soldiers or manpower in
corvée Corvée () is a form of unpaid, forced labour Unfree labour, or forced labour, is any work relation, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of destitution, detention, ...

projects to build roads, to grow food, build canals or serve as domestics. The greatest population transfer occurred after the Laotian Rebellion by Chao Anouvông (, ) in 1828 which led to the death of Anouvông and most of his family. The Siamese abducted nearly the entire population of Vientiane and its surrounding area and forced them to the right bank. Continued raids of people continued until the end of the nineteenth century. In addition to forced transfers, many Lao were encouraged to settle in Isan, with some disillusioned princes granted lofty titles in exchange for loyalty and taxation, robbing the Lao kings of taxation and wealth as well as what little nominal authority they had left. This greatly expanded the Lao population of Isan and caused assimilation of the local peoples into the mix, a process that is occurring on a smaller scale even now. Siamese intervention paradoxically strengthened the Lao character of the region as the Siamese left the Lao areas alone as long as they continued to produce rice and continued to pay tribute. Direct Siamese rule did not extend past
Nakhon Ratchasima Nakhon Ratchasima ( th, นครราชสีมา, ) is one of the four major cities of Isan, Thailand, known as the "big four of Isan". The city is commonly known as Korat (, ), a shortened form of its name. It is the governmental seat of ...
, and the Lao ''mueang'', whether paying their tribute directly to Bangkok or the remaining Lao kings and princes, were still nominally part of the separate kingdoms. Temples built in what is now Isan still featured the Tai Noi script on its murals and although Siam would intervene in some matters, daily administration was still left to the remaining kings and various Lao princes that served as governors of the larger ''mueang''. The end result of the population movements re-centered the Lao world to the right bank, as today, if Isan and Lao speakers are counted together, Isan speakers form 80 percent of the Lao-speaking population.

French Laos (1893–1953)

During French rule, missing words for new technologies and political realities were borrowed from French or Vietnamese, repurposed from old Lao vocabulary as well as coined from Sanskrit. These Sanskrit-derived neologisms were generally the same, although not always, as those that developed in Thai.Keyes, Charles (2013), Finding Their Voice: Northeastern Villagers and the Thai State, Silkworm Books.Platt, M. B. (2013). ''Isan Writers, Thai Literature Writing and Regionalism in Modern Thailand.'' (pp. 145–149). Singapore: NUS Press. Whilst previously written in a mixture of etymological and phonetical spellings, depending on audience or author, Lao underwent several reforms that moved the language towards a purely phonetical spelling. During the restoration of the king of Louang Phabang as King of Laos under the last years of French rule in Laos, the government standardized the spelling of the Lao language, with movement towards a phonetical spelling with preservation of a semi-etymological spelling for Pali, Sanskrit and French loan words and the addition of archaic letters for words of Pali and Sanskrit origin concerning Indic culture and Buddhism.

Independence and Communist rule (1953–present)

Spelling reforms under the communist rule of Laos in 1975 were more radical, with the complete abolition of semi-etymological spelling in favor of phonetical spelling, with the removal of silent letters, removal of special letters for Indic loan words, all vowels being written out implicitly and even the elimination or replacement of the letter '' (but usually pronounced /l/) in official publications, although older people and many in the Lao diaspora continue to use some of the older spelling conventions.


The standard written Lao based on the speech of Vientiane has leveled many lexical differences between dialects found in Laos, and although spoken regional variations remain strong, speakers will adjust to it in formal situations and in dealings with outsiders.

Vientiane Lao dialect

In Laos, the written language has been mainly based on Vientiane Lao for centuries after the capital of Lan Xang was moved in 1560. The speech of the old élite families was cultivated into Standard Lao as emulated by television and radio broadcasts from the capital as well as taught to foreign students of Lao. The speech of the Isan city of Nong Khai, which sits on the opposite bank of the Mekong, is almost indistinguishable in tone and accent from the speech of Vientiane. Vientiane Lao predominates in Vientiane City, the surrounding Vientiane Province and portions of Bolikhamxai and some areas of Xaisomboun Province, Xaisômboun. In Isan, Vientiane Lao is the primary form of Isan spoken in the northern third of the region which was long settled since the days of Lan Xang and was ruled as part of the Kingdom of Vientiane, including most of
Nong Khai Nong Khai ( th, เทศบาลเมืองหนองคาย; 'Nong Khai Town' or 'Nong Khai') is a city in northeast Thailand. It is the capital of Nong Khai Province. Nong Khai city is administered as Mueang Nong Khai District. Nong ...
, Nong Bua Lamphu, eastern Loei and portions of Chaiyaphum Province, Saiyaphum and Bueng Kan Province, Bueng Kan. As a result of the Lao rebellion of 1826 the ''Tai Wiang'' (), ), 'Vientiane people' of the city and surrounding parts of the kingdom, were rounded up by Siamese armies and forced to the right bank, greatly boosting the Lao population of what is now Isan. The Tai Wiang strengthened numbers in the northern third, where Vientiane Lao was traditionally spoken, but were scattered across the Isan region overall, with heavier concentrations in Yasothorn Province, Yasothon, Khon Kaen Province, Khon Kaen and Roi Et Province, Hoi Et provinces. This likely had a leveling effect on the Lao language as spoken in Isan, as most Isan speakers regardless of speech variety are prone to using /ʋ/ as opposed to /w/ and the informal conversion of syllable-initial /k/ to /tɕ/ in relaxed, informal speech, which in Laos, is particularly characteristic of Vientiane speech. For example, the word ''kaem'' ( ''kèm'', ), 'cheek', is often pronounced *''chaem'' (* ''chèm'', *).

Northern Lao (Louang Phrabang) dialect

Northern Lao is a very distinct dialect, exhibiting several features and lexical differences quite apart from other Lao dialects except Northeastern Lao (Phuan). Even though it borders the Vientiane Lao dialect region, there is a sharp boundary that divides them. The dialect shares many similarities with Tai Lanna and is classified accordingly as a Chiang Saen language by Ethnologue.Paul, L. M., Simons, G. F. and Fennig, C. D. (eds.). 2013. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com The dialect is not common in Isan, restricted to western portions of Loei and pockets of villages spread throughout Udon Thani Province, Udon Thani provinces. The Isan people of Phitsanulok Province, Phitsanulok and Uttaradit Province, Uttaradit provinces, particularly the narrow strip hugging the shore of the Mekong and bordering Loei, outside of Isan are generally speakers of Northern Lao. In Laos, it is the primary dialect spoken in Luang Prabang Province, Louang Phrabang and Sainyabuli Province, Xaignabouli provinces. In the other northern Laotian provinces of Oudomxai Province, Oudômxai, Houaphanh Province, Houaphan, Luang Namtha Province, Louang Namtha and Phongsaly Province, Phôngsali, native Lao speakers are a small minority in the major market towns but Northern Lao, highly influenced by the local languages, is spoken as the ''lingua franca'' across ethnic groups of the area.เรืองเดช ปันเขื่อนขัติย์. ภาษาถิ่นตระกูลไทย. กทม. สถาบันวิจัยภาษาและวัฒนธรรมเพื่อการพัฒนาชนบทมหาวิทยาลัยมหิดล. 2531. Northern Lao, specifically the speech of the city of Luang Prabang, Louang Phrabang was originally the prestigious variety of the language with the city serving as the capital of Lan Xang for the first half of its existence, with the kings of the city made kings of all of Laos by the French. Although the language lost its prestige to Vientiane Lao, Northern Lao is important for its history, as many of the earliest Lao literary works were composed in the dialect, and it served, in a refined form, as the royal speech of the Laotian kings until 1975 when the monarchy was abolished. Louang Phrabang remains the largest city in the northern region of Laos, serving as an important center of trade and communication with the surrounding areas. Despite the proximity to speakers of Vientiane Lao, Northern Lao is quite distinct. Unlike other Lao dialects with six tones, Northern Lao speakers use only five. Due to the distinctive high-pitch, high-falling tone on words with live syllables starting with low-class consonants, the dialect is said to sound softer, sweeter and more effeminate than other Lao dialects, likely aided by the slower speed of speaking. Similar in tonal structure and quality to Tai Lanna, likely facilitated by the immigration of Lanna people to Louang Phrabang after Chiang Mai's fall to the Burmese in 1551, the dialect is classified apart from other Lao dialects as Chiang Saen language by Ethnologue. Northern Lao also resisted the merger of Proto-Tai * and * that occurred in all other Lao dialects, except Northeastern Lao. This affects the twenty or so words represented by Thai '' and Lao '', which preserve /aɰ/ in Northern Lao. This vowel has become /aj/, similar to Thai '' and Lao '' which is also /aj/. Northern Lao also contains numerous terms not familiar to other Lao speakers.Osantanda, V. (2015). "Lao Khrang and Luang Phrabang Lao: A Comparison of Tonal Systems and Foreign-Accent Rating by Luang Phrabang Judges." ''The Journal of Lao Studies''. pp. 110–143. Special Issue 2(2015).

Northeastern Lao dialect (Tai Phouan)

The Phuan language is a Chiang Saen language rather than part of the Lao–Phutai languages, but it is considered a Lao dialect in Laos. As a Tai language of northern Southeast Asia, it shares many similarities with Tai Dam and Tai Lan Na. In contrast to other minority languages of Isan, it is not losing ground to the Thai or Isan language in Isan.

Central Lao

Central Lao represents a transitional variety, with northern varieties closer to Vientiane Lao and southern varieties, roughly south of the confluence of the Xé Noi river with the Mekong, the speech varieties begin to approach Southern Lao. Some linguists, such as Hartmann, place Vientiane Lao and Central Lao together as a singular dialect region. More Vientiane-like speech predominates in the Isan provinces of Bueng Kan Province, Bueng Kan, Sakon Nakhon Province, Sakon Nakhon, most of Nakhon Phanom Province, Nakhon Phanom and some areas of
Nong Khai Nong Khai ( th, เทศบาลเมืองหนองคาย; 'Nong Khai Town' or 'Nong Khai') is a city in northeast Thailand. It is the capital of Nong Khai Province. Nong Khai city is administered as Mueang Nong Khai District. Nong ...
provinces and on the Laotian side, portions of eastern and southern Bolikhamxai and Khammouane Province, Khammouan provinces. More Southern Lao features are found in the speech of Mukdahan Province, Mukdahan and southern Nakhon Phanom Province, Nakhon Phanom provinces of Thailand and Savannakhet Province, Savannakhét Province of Laos. Nevertheless, the tones of the southern Central varieties, such as spoken in Mukdahan, Thailand and Savannakhét, Laos have a tonal structure more akin to Vientiane Lao, sharing certain splits and contours. These areas do, however, exhibit some Southern features of their lexicon, such as the common use of ''se'' ( ''xé'', ), 'river', which is typical of Southern Lao as opposed to ''nam'' (, ), which is the more common word and also signifies 'water' in general. Mukdahan-Savannakhét area speakers also understand ''mae thao'' (, ) as a respectful term for an 'old lady' (as opposed to Vientiane 'mother-in-law') and use ''pen sang'' (, ) instead of Vientiane ''pen yang'' (, ), 'what's wrong?', as is typical of Southern Lao.

Southern Lao

Southern Lao is spoken along the southern third of Isan and Laos. This region covers the Thai provinces of Surin Province, Surin, Buriram Province, Buriram and Sisaket Province, Sisaket, where a large minority of speakers are Khmer people, Khmer people speaking the archaic Northern Khmer dialect, northern variety of Khmer and another Austroasiatic people, the Kuy people, use Southern Lao as a second language to engage with their Isan neighbors. It is also spoken in Ubon Ratchathani Province, Ubon Ratsathani, Amnat Charoen Province, Amnat Charoen and portions of Yasothorn Province, Yasothon and Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Nakhon Ratsasima. In Laos, it is the primary dialect of Champasak Province, Champasak, Saravane Province, Salavan, Attapeu Province, Attapeu and Sekong Province, Xékong provinces. There are also small pockets of speakers located in Steung Treng Province, Cambodia or ''Siang Taeng'' (, ), particularly near the Mekong River close to the Laotian border. Many of the areas where Southern Lao is spoken were formerly part of the Kingdom of Champasak, one of the three successor states to the Kingdom of Lan Xang, prior to the division of the Lao-speaking world between France and Siam. Compared to other Isan and Lao dialects, Southern Lao has low tones in syllables that begin with high- or middle-class consonants and have long vowels. High- and middle-class consonants marked with the ''mai tho'' tone mark are low and low-falling, respectively, but in these cases are pronounced with very strong glottalization, which can be described as 'creaky'. Combined with the somewhat faster manner of speaking and reduced tendency to soften consonants at the end of words, Southern Lao sounds very rough and harsh to speakers of other dialects. Many of these features, such as the faster speaking pace and glottalization may be influences from Austroasiatic languages as most of the region was inhabited by the Khmer, Kuy and various other Austroasiatic peoples until the eighteenth century when the Lao began to settle and even now, Khmer speakers comprise half the population of Surin and roughly a quarter each of the populations of Sisaket and Buriram provinces.Enfield, N. J. (1966). A Grammar of Lao. Mouton de Gruyter: New York, NY. 2007 reprint. p. 19. Specific dialectal words include ''don'' (, ), 'riparian island', ''se'' ( xé, /sȅː/)) and many of the words used in Savannakhét that are more typical of Southern Lao such as ''mae thao'' (, ) as a respectful term for an 'old lady' (as opposed to Vientiane 'mother-in-law') and use ''pen sang'' (, ) instead of Vientiane ''pen yang'' ( ''pén gnang'', ), 'what's wrong?'. Possibly as a result of historical Khmer influence and current influences from Thai, Southern dialects tend to pronounce some words with initial Proto-Southwestern Tai * as either the rhotic tap or a strongly velarized which is confused with by speakers of other Lao dialects which have /h/. For example, Vientiane Lao ''hap'' (, ), 'to receive', and ''honghaem'' ( ''hônghèm'', ) are pronounced as ''lap'' (, ) and ''honglaem'' ( ''hônglèm'', ), respectively but may sound like *''dap'' and *''hongdaem'' (''hông dèm'') to other Lao, but are really a strongly velarized /ɬ/ or a rhotic tap /ɾ/. Southerners also tend to use ''chak'' (, ) to mean 'to know someone' as opposed to ''hu chak'' ( ''hou chak'', ) used in all other dialects.

Western Lao

Western Lao does not occur in Laos but is the primary dialect of Kalasin Province, Kalasin, Roi Et Province, Hoi Et and Maha Sarakham Province, Maha Sarakham in Isan, Thailand. It is also spoken in much of Chaiyaphum Province, Saiyaphum and portions of Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Nakhon Ratsasima.


The Lao language consists primarily of native Lao words. Because of Buddhism, however,
Pali Pali () is a Middle Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasion theory (disambiguat ...
has contributed numerous terms, especially relating to religion and in conversation with members of the sangha. Due to their proximity, Lao has influenced the Khmer and Thai languages and vice versa. Formal writing has a larger number of loanwords, especially
Pali Pali () is a Middle Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasion theory (disambiguat ...
and Sanskrit, much as Latin and Greek have influenced European languages. For politeness, pronouns (and more formal pronouns) are used, plus ending statements with (dǣ ) or (dœ̄ ). Negative statements are made more polite by ending with (dǭk ). The following are formal register examples. * (khǭp chai lāi lāi dœ̄, ) ''Thank you very much''. * (khānǭi het bǭ dai dǭk, ) ''I cannot''. * (khai pa tū hai dǣ, ) ''Open the door, please''.

French loanwords

After the division of the Lao-speaking world in 1893, French would serve as the administrative language of the French Protectorate of Laos, carved from the Lao lands of the left bank, for sixty years until 1953 when Laos achieved full independence.L'Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Laos. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.francophonie.org/Laos.html The close relationship of the Lao monarchy with France continued the promotion and spread of French until the end of the Laotian Civil War when the monarchy was removed and the privileged position of French began its decline. Many of the initial borrowings for terms from Western culture were imported via French. For instance, Lao uses ''xangtimèt'' ( ) in an approximation of French ''centimètre'' (). Lao people also tend to use French forms of geographic place names, thus the Republic of Guinea is ''kiné'' ( ) from French ''Guinée'' (). Although English has mostly surpassed French as the preferred foreign language of international diplomacy and higher education since the country began opening up to foreign investment in the 1990s, the position of French is stronger in Laos than in Cambodia and
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

. Since 1972, Laos has been associated with La Francophonie, achieving full-member status in 1992. Many of the royalists and high-ranking families of Laos left Laos in the wake of the end of the Laotian Civil War for France, but as of 2010, it was estimated that 173,800 people, or three percent of the population, were fluent in French and French is studied by 35% of the population as a second language as a required subject and many courses in engineering, medicine, law, administration and other advanced studies are only available in French. Laos maintains the French-language weekly ''Le Rénovateur'', but French-language content is sometimes seen alongside English in publications in older issues of ''Khaosane Phathét Lao News'' and sporadically on television ad radio. French still appears on signage, is the language of major civil engineering projects and is the language of the élite, especially the older generations that received secondary and tertiary education in French-medium schools or studied in France. France maintains a large Lao diaspora and some of the very well-to-do still send their children to France for study. The result of this long-standing French influence is the use of hundreds of loan words of French origin in the Lao language of Laos—although many are old-fashioned and somewhat obsolete or co-exist alongside more predominant native usages.

Vietnamese loanwords

Because of the depopulation of the left bank to Siam prior to French colonization, the French who were already active in
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

brought Vietnamese to boost the population of the cities and help administer the region. Many Lao that received a French-language education during the period of French Indochina were educated in French-language schools in Vietnam, exposing them to French and Vietnamese languages and cultures. As the Vietnamese communists supported the ''Pathét Lao'' forces, supplying Lao communist militia with weaponry and training during the two-decade-long Laotian Civil War, large numbers of Vietnamese troops have been stationed at various times in Laos' post-independence history, although the Vietnamese military presence began to wane in the late 1980s as Laos pursued closer relations with its other neighbors and entered the market economy. Since market reforms in Vietnam, market liberalization has been the main focus between the two countries now.



Many consonants in Lao have a Labialization, labialized and plain form, thus creating a phonemic contrast. The complete inventory of Lao consonants is as shown in the table below:Blaine Erickson, 2001
"On the Origins of Labialized Consonants in Lao"
Analysis based on L. N. Morev, A. A. Moskalyov and Y. Y. Plam, (1979). ''The Lao Language''. Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of Oriental Studies. Accessed 2009-12-19.

Initial consonants

Final consonants

All plosive consonant, plosive sounds are Unreleased stop, unreleased in final position. Hence, final , , and sounds are pronounced as , , and respectively. :* The glottal stop appears at the end when no final follows a short vowel.


All vowels make a phonemic vowel length, length distinction. Diphthongs are all centering diphthongs with falling diphthong, falling sonority. The monophthongs and diphthongs are as shown in the following table:


Lao has six lexical tones.

Unchecked syllables

There are six phonemic tones in unchecked syllables, that is, in syllables ending in a vowel or other Sonorant, sonorant sound ( and ).

Checked syllables

The number of contrastive tones is reduced to four in checked syllables, that is, in syllables ending in an Obstruent, obstruent sound ( or the glottal stop ).


Lao syllables are of the form (C)V(C), i.e., they consist of a vowel in the syllable nucleus, optionally preceded by a single consonant in the syllable onset and optionally followed by a single consonant in the syllable coda. The only consonant clusters allowed are syllable initial clusters . Any consonant may appear in the onset, but the labialized consonants do not occur before rounded vowels. One difference between Thai and Lao is that in Lao initial clusters are simplified. For example, the official name of Laos is Romanized as ''Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao'', with the Thai analog being ''Satharanarat Prachathipatai Prachachon Lao'' (สาธารณรัฐประชาธิปไตยประชาชนลาว), indicating the simplification of Thai ''pr'' to Lao ''p''. Only may appear in the coda. If the vowel in the nucleus is short, it must be followed by a consonant in the coda; in the coda can be preceded only by a short vowel. Open syllables (i.e., those with no coda consonant) and syllables ending in one of the sonorants take one of the six tones, syllables ending in take one of four tones, and syllables ending in take one of only two tones.


The majority of Lao words are syllable, monosyllabic, and are not inflected to reflect declension or verbal tense, making Lao an
analytic language In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods fo ...
. Special particle words serve the purpose of prepositions and verb tenses in lieu of conjugations and declensions. Lao is a subject–verb–object (SVO) language, although the subject is often dropped. In contrast to Thai, Lao uses pronouns more frequently.


Writing system

Lao script

The Lao script, derived from the Khmer alphabet of the Khmer Empire in the 14th century, is ultimately rooted in the Pallava script of South India, one of the Brahmi scripts. Although the Lao script bears resemblance to Thai, the former contains fewer letters than Thai because by 1960 it was simplified to be fairly ''phonemic'', whereas Thai maintains many etymological spellings that are pronounced the same.Unicode. (2019). Lao. In ''The Unicode Standard Version 12.0'' (pp. 635-637). Mountain View, CA: Unicode Consortium. The script is traditionally classified as an abugida, but Lao consonant letters are conceived of as simply representing the consonant sound, rather than a syllable with an inherent vowel. Vowels are written as diacritic marks and can be placed above, below, in front of, or behind consonants. The script also contains distinct symbols for numerals, although Arabic numerals are more commonly used. The Lao Sacred language, liturgical script is written in the Tai Tham scriptUCLA International Institute, (n.d.)
. Accessed 2010-07-27.
and is still used in temples in Laos and
Isan Northeast Thailand or Isan (Isan language, Isan/ th, อีสาน, ; lo, ອີສານ; also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali ''īsānna'' or Sanskrit ईशान्य ''īśānya'' "northeast") consist ...

Indication of tones

Experts disagree on the number and nature of tones in the various dialects of Lao. According to some, most dialects of Lao and Isan have six tones, those of Luang Prabang have five. Tones are determined as follows: A silent () placed before certain consonants will place the proceeding consonant in the high class tone. This can occur before the letters , , , and and combined in special ligatures (considered separate letters) such as , , and . In addition to (low tone) and (falling tone), there also exists the rare (high) (rising) tone marks.

Tai Tham script

Traditionally, only secular literature was written with the Lao alphabet. Religious literature was often written in ''Tai Tham script, Tai Tham'', a Mon-based script that is still used for the Khün language, Tai Khün, Tai Lue language, Tai Lü, and formerly for Northern Thai language, Kham Mueang. The Lao style of this script is known as ''Lao Tham''.

Khom script

Mystical, magical, and some religious literature was written in ''Khom script'' (Aksar Khom), a modified version of the Khmer script.Igunma, Jana. (2013). Aksoon Khoom: Khmer Heritage in Thai and Lao Manuscript Cultures. ''Tai Culture, 23: Route of the Roots: Tai-Asiatic Cultural Interaction''.

See also

*Comparison of Lao and Isan *Comparison of Lao and Thai *Literature of Laos *Romanization of Lao



Further reading

* Lew, Sigrid. 2013
"A linguistic analysis of the Lao writing system and its suitability for minority language orthographies".
* ANSI Z39.35-1979, ''System for the Romanization of Lao, Khmer, and Pali'', . * Hoshino, Tatsuo and Marcus, Russel. (1989). ''Lao for Beginners: An Introduction to the Spoken and Written Language of Laos''. Tuttle Publishing. . * Enfield, N. J. (2007)
''A Grammar of Lao''
Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. . * Cummings, Joe. (2002). ''Lao Phrasebook: A Language Survival Kit''. Lonely Planet. . * Mollerup, Asger. ''Thai–Isan–Lao Phrasebook''. White Lotus, Bangkok, 2001. . * Kerr, Allen. (1994). ''Lao–English Dictionary''. White Lotus. . * Simmala, Buasawan and Benjawan Poomsan Becker (2003), ''Lao for Beginners''. Paiboon Publishing.

External links

Unicode: LaoLao True Type Fonts
{{Authority control Lao language, Languages of Laos Languages of Thailand Tai languages Isolating languages Subject–verb–object languages