Lao or Laotian is a language and is the official language of Laos. It is also spoken in the northeast part of Thailand. Lao, like the other languages of Laos, is written in an abugida writing system. The languages has variations, but the Vientiane dialect is considered the standard written form of Lao.
|ພາສາລາວ ([pʰaːsaː laːw])|
|Native to||Laos, Thailand|
|5,225,552 (2006), roughly 20 million if Isan speakers are included.|
Official language in
Lao and Thai are both Tai languages and are very similar to each other. In fact, speakers of northern Thai dialects and Lao claim that they can largely understand each other, making the dialects mutually intelligible.
Lao is one of the Tai languages, spoken in what is now northern Vietnam and southern China. Mongol invaders and expansion in China pushed the Tai people south towards India. Their language was influenced by other languages in the region like the Mon-Khmer and the Austronesian languages. The written form of Lao originally came from the Pali language in India. The script form was brought to the region by Buddhists about two thousand years ago.
Lao script is based on the Khmer script and is very similar to Thai script. However, the writing system was simplified several times, both during the French rule and the communist rule, to make it easier for native Lao speakers to read aloud written Lao.
Lao has mainly native Lao words. Because of Buddhism, however, it has been influenced by other languages that contributed mostly religious terms. Lao has influenced Khmer and Thai and vice versa. The writing has many foreign loanwords, very similar to how Latin and Greek have influenced other European languages.
For politeness, pronouns (and more formal pronouns) are used, as well as ending statements with ແດ່ (dè [dɛː]) or ເດີ້ (deu [dɤ̂ː]). Negative statements are made more polite by ending with ດອກ (dok [dɔ̭ːk]). The following are formal register examples.
- ຂອບໃຈຫຼາຍໆເດີ້ (khop chai lai lai deu, [kʰɔ᷆ːp t͡ɕàj lǎːj lǎːj dɤ̂ː]) Thank you very much.
- ຂ້ານ້ອຍເຮັດບໍ່ໄດ້ດອກ (khanoi hét bo dai dok, [kʰa᷆ːnɔ̂ːj hēt bɔ̄ː dâj dɔ᷆ːk]) I cannot.
- ໄຂປະຕູໃຫ້ແດ່ (khai pa too hai dè, [kʰǎj pa.tùː ha᷆j dɛ̄ː ]) Open the door, please.
- "Lao Language". Laos-Guide-999.com. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- "Facts about Lao". Thailao.net/. Archived from the original on 26 March 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- E K Brown; Sarah Ogilvie, Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World (Amsterdam, Netherlands; Boston, MA: Elsevier, 2009), p. 639
- "Lao Language". Effective Language Learning. Retrieved 21 April 2016.