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Unlikely but True Origins of the Thai Script

Unlikely but True Origins of the Thai Script

Origins of the Thai script…

We can trace the Thai script back in time and space (mostly going West) to the Phoenicians, whose alphabet is the mother of all European and Indic systems of writing, including Greek, Hebrew and Arabic! These people were great traders and had links to lands beyond the river Indus. So East went their written words…

But back to the Thai script (we are NOT referring to the language here!). Modern Thai letters are an evolution from the old form used in Sukhothai and they were devised under the King Ramkhanhaeng transforming the Khmer characters in use at that time, when the Thais broke free from the Khmer kingdom. Some were just inversed, others had to be doubled to accommodate the different tones (see the difficulty of adapting a non tonal alphabet previously only used by polysyllabic tongues for a tonal, essentially monosyllabic language!). Strict concern for the faithful rendition of Sanskrit and Pali vocabulary was applied (not the case with Lao). That is why we find those “useless” letters at the tail of Sanskrit and Pali words.

Old Khmer was itself derived from the Pallawa of South India of about the 6th century.That was a local evolution from the Gupta script of North India (4 AC) which itself came from the Brahmi used by Emperor Ashoka (circa 2 BC).That Brahmi alphabet had been sequenced under the very logical and clever Sanskrit system (a language and NOT a script!) By classifying each letter according to the area of the human organs of speech where they are formed, into five series of five letters (plus some): Guttural, retroflex, palatal, dental and labial (thus moving from the throat to the lips). Brahmi itself came from the writing of the land now known as Lebanon: Phoenician, circa 1000 BC.

Now going in the sense of time and going East, we see that its evolution in diverse regions gave birth to forms as diverse as Devanagari of North India, Ranjana, Tibetan, Bengali, Panjabi, Gujerati, Orissi, Telugu/Kannara, Tamil, Malayalam, Sinhala, old Javanese and Balinese, Mon and Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Tham and related Shan and Dai, old Cham.

The amazing fact about all those scripts, apart from the fact that they are traceable in an almost unbroken line across time and space, is that they still all follow the original Sanskrit ordering (except for Old Javanese and Balinese because a very clever poem was created using the phonemes for easy and fun memorizing). So,just allowing for the small changes to the specific phonemic necessities of each language, we always find these five series of five sounds, plus some: YA RA LA WA HA SA SHA ShA A, mentioned earlier (starting with Guttural: KA, KHA, GA, GHA, NGA of Sanskrit, becoming, for instance: KA, KHA, KHA, KHA, NGA in Thai).

Are we amazed?… Well, I, for one, am!

Michel Boismard

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Topic Thailand: Keeping up with Thai Politics

Topic Thailand

Understanding Thailand’s political crisis…

During my research for an earlier post, Staying Safe in Thailand: Streetwise Advice + Twitter, Newley Purnell introduced me to his grand new site: Topic: Thailand. Understanding Thailand’s political crisis.

Now, I love world history, but I haven’t always been fond of politics (or does my fondness stop at politicians instead?) And while I have read books on Thailand, as well as poked around a few Thai political blogs, I’m not clued in on how Thailand got from Thaksin, to where it stands now.

And after spending a month plus wading through seas of Yellows, then Reds, then Pinks and multi-colours, I seriously want to know more about the politics of Thailand.

Newley’s TopicThailand.com suits my aims:

TopicThailand.com was created by me, Newley Purnell. I’m an American freelance journalist who lives in Bangkok.

Given the complexity of Thailand’s political situation, I wanted to create a site that provides context and background information to help explain what’s happening here.

Haven’t been much of a political book hound…

Back in 2008 I did compile a shortlist of must-have books on Thailand, but the list does not cover the present political crisis. For that, I’m going with Newley’s advice:

The books I’ve linked to from TopicThailand.com are designed to put Thailand’s current political instability in context. In fact, that’s the aim of the entire site* — I wanted to help explain, in my own small way, what the current turbulence is all about.

The news media — understandably — focuses on the story of the moment. The most recent violence; the most recent speeches; the newest quotes, etc. And while this is, obviously, necessary for following the events, it can leave some folks confused, and lacking background info and analysis. (I also link to new developments when they come about, but the focus of TopicThailand is more on analysis and other big-picture items.)

So the links to the books are designed to offer people a way to delve a bit deeper. After all, what’s happening in Thailand now looks much different when you’re familiar with the history of Thailand’s political workings.

*As I say on the About page, the idea for a site designed to offer context for a big issue isn’t new. I have been inspired by TheMoneyMeltdown.com, Matt Thompson’s site about the sub-prime financial crisis.

And that’s exactly what I need: knowledge about Thailand’s political workings.

Books about Thai politics and society…

While my political stash is thin, thanks to Danny from DCO, I do have a few of the books listed on TopicThailand.com: A History of Thailand, Thaksin, and Thailand: A Short History. To get the rest I contacted Danny as he’s brilliant at sourcing books in this huge city (Bangkok).

Thailand still has a thriving English language publishing business covering not just this country but the neighbouring countries where rules on what can be published are far more restrictive. To pick out just two publishers, Silkworm Books and White Lotus have dared to publish contentious books on politics in Thailand.

So in addition to Newley’s list, I have a few more:

The Boys in Black (white lotus), by Professor Desmond Ball.

I came across this one in a Bangkok Post article: The boys in black, Thailand’s dangerous, dark influence. As it seems relevant to the times, I’ve added it here.

Are a disbanded group of specialist military rangers the shadowy figures operating in the current conflict? Here is a look at the history of the country’s hunter-fighters, a group of trained killers.

Another political book in my bookcase is Red vrs Yellow, by Nick Nostitz.

Red vs. Yellow, Volume 1: Thailand’s crisis of identity describes, both in photos and in text, the political turmoil and violent street protests that took place during the first elected administration in Thailand after the 2006/2007 coup period, its government led by the PPP (People Power Party) a place holder party of the TRT (Thai Rak Thai) which had been ousted by the military coup.

I might be a political lightweight, but with the resources on Newley’s TopicThailand.com, I’m well on way my to understanding what makes Thailand tick.

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I Love Thailand and the Lands of Thailand

I Love Thailand

The I Love Thailand website launches…

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently launched a website to unite the Thai people: ilovethailand.org (no longer online – the German’s grabbed it).

The site is not only in Thai, so if your Thai is not up to it but your English is, you should find something of interest.

The Lands of Thailand< video...

Included in the video section is a graphic history of Thailand from 1782 to 1932.

Checking on YouTube, I found the video translated into English.

Going through the strong opinions under the Thai version on YouTube is… interesting. Perhaps we’ll find similar maps from the Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodians, and Burmese posting soon.

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Reviews: Introduction


Reviews: Introduction…

I have a number of resources on Thailand: books on history, language, culture, and gardening. Software and language learning courses, the lot. And some of what I have just might be of interest to you.

I also have a ton of online resources for living in Thailand: websites, language learning software, blogs, products and such. Again, some of what I’ve collected just might be of interest to you.

And that’s what you’ll find posted here. A little something that just might be of interest to you. Reviewed.

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