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The Five Thai Tones

About Thai Tones

The Heart and Soul of the Thai Language


The Thai language is a tonal language. Tones are the core of the language. They are essential; as important as any vowel or any consonant. Tones distinguish the meaning of one word from another.

Each syllable is pronounced with one of five distinct tones – middle, low, falling, high, or rising. The middle tone starts at a middle pitch level, rises slightly and returns to mid-level. The low tone starts low and gradually falls even lower. The falling tone starts high and falls to a low pitch. The high tone rises to a peak and then drops. The rising tone starts at mid-level and gradually rises.

Learning the five tones can be difficult at first. Once you have broken the tone barrier, you have grasped the core of the Thai language. Persistence is the key.
- Author Aaron Handel

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Tone Menu


The Five Tones using "mai"
The Five Tones using "gaw"
Fun With Tones.wmv
Tone Drills from Chapter 1
What are the 5 tones called?
The Names of the Five Tones
The Thai Tone Rules
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The Five Tones using "mai"

♪♫♪♫♪♫

From Chapter 1 of Thai Language Course:

The Five Thai Tones

middle low falling high rising
mai
ไมล์
mài
ใหม่
mâi
ไม่
mái
ไม้
măi
ไหม
mile new not wood no?

mp4 webm m4a ogg mp3
Translation: Is the new mile not wood?

* In this example, each word has a different tone, a different Thai spelling, and a different meaning.


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The Five Tones using "gaw"

In Thai schools, kids use "gaw" to drill this sequence of tones:
gaw gàw gâw gáw găw
middle low falling high rising
Listen to the 5 tones using the "gaw" sound:

m4a mp3 ogg
The Five Thai Tones Video

mp4 webm
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Fun With Tones

Is there new silk in Chiang Mai?
Literal: At Chiang Mai have silk new no?
ที่ เชียง ใหม่ มี ไหม ใหม่ ไหม
Têe Chiang Mài mee măi mài măi
falling middle low middle rising low rising

Watch the Video: mp4 webm or Fun With Tones.wmv
Listen to: FunWithTones.wma or FunWithTones.mp3

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The Five Tones

This video is slow and clear.


Tone Practice

From Chapter 1 Tones and Transliteration

low middle high low middle high
yàhk
อยาก
reean
เรียน
róo
รู้
yàhk
อยาก
reean
เรียน
róo
รู้
want study know want study know

mp4 webm m4a ogg mp3
Translation: I want to learn!
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The Names of the Five Tones


mp4 webm m4a ogg mp3
Middle
tone
Low tone Falling tone High tone Rising
tone
เสียง
สามัญ
เสียง เอก เสียง โท เสียง ตรี เสียง
จัตวา
sĕeang
săhman
sĕeang
èk
sĕeang
toh
sĕeang
dtree
sĕeang
jut-dta-wah
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Thai Tone Rules

Step 1:
What is the class of the first consonant in the syllable?
High Class G2 Middle Class G1 Low
Class G3
Step 2:
If there is a tone mark, the class and the tone mark determine the tone.
-่ low tone low tone falling tone
-้ falling tone falling tone high tone
-๊
high tone
-๋
rising tone
Step 3:
If there is no tone mark, the class of the initial consonant and the ending sound of the syllable determine the tone.
Live Ending (All ending sounds except K, P, T or a short vowel) rising tone middle tone middle tone
Dead Ending (K, P, T sound after a long vowel) low tone low tone falling tone
Short vowel ending, or K, P, T sound after a short vowel low tone low tone high tone


Good Websites
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Thai Phrase Book With Tones Audio Software

Thai Phrase Book

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Thai Phrase Book With Tones Print Edition


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