Transcription und Transliteration

Transcription is a representation of a foreign language based on pronunciation, written in a defined set of phonetic characters or another base alphabet. The purpose is to provide a reasonably correct pronunciation of the word to the non-native speakers.

Transliteration is another way to convey words from a non-Latin text literal to Latin script. When needed the transfer is conditioned reversible. Unlike transcription, the correct pronunciation plays a minor role. This will aim to present the exact spelling of the word in a different script.

To pronounce transliterated words (as opposed to transcribed) it is not enough to know the rules of pronunciation of the language in which the text is written. One purpose of transliteration may be the correct sorting of names and titles in lists.

Comparison of transcription and transliteration:

Thai scriptt Transcription Transliteration
phu:mipa:wn adunjade:t
Phumipol Adulyadej



ClickThai transcription

For Thai as for other languages the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA can be used. Because Thai have only a few unusual sound for most of us, we can use the normal Latin alphabet. The few exceptions that can not be represented directly are well described and quickly learned with the pronunciation rules.

Transcription has the disadvantage of being dependent of the target language. Sounds, that are not available in the target language, have to described in a kind, that is understood in the target language. Even this is done often not uniform, because each author seeks to optimize his own system.

For this reason, the transcription also be used only conditionally, to act as a substitute language, even between nations that use the same basic alphabet. Even a Thai with good English skills can not read and understand English transcription.

Transcription can therefore only be a tool for learning the correct pronunciation, and this only if it is written in the target language.

Here the transcription describes how it is used in ClickThai Dictionary and on these pages.

Generally speaking, there is no single transcription system available. Several authors try to approach the transcription in their own way. When trying to write down a heard Thai word with the Latin alphabet, a Frenchman will do it differently than Americans. German speakers have "Umlaut" sounds and can use them at transcription. An Englishman nannot handele, for example, U-Umlaut and therefore writes "eu" or "ue". This explains in part, why you can found different spellings for Thai words on the Internet. In principle they are all inaccurate, and every author tries to do something better than the other.

The International Pronunciation Alphabet IPA although suitable for transcribing Thai but is widely unpopular, because it requires one additional learning step. So it is largely unknown and is therefore not used here, particularly as the full character set not readily available on any computer.

Because Thai is a tonal language, in which the pitch of each syllable is of importance, is an additional indication required. The ClickThai romanization use the characters --- for a mid-level pitch, \ for a low pitch, / for a high pitch, /\ for a falling pitch and \/ for a rising pitch. These audible signs are written behind the syllable and are usually indicated in red. For a long vowel sound, a colon is used.


Thai script Transcription German
Transcription English
Transcription English
เดิม [dö:m--] [de:rm--] deerm
[di:au\/ ni:/]
[di:ao\/ nee/] diaao nee
[bpla:wy\] bplaawy
[mü:ang-- ]
[meu:ang-- ] meuuang





Transcription and Transliteration

For the transfer of non-Latin characters in the Latin script two different systems are used. Both are also used to the transfer of the Thai script and have their special significance.

To describe how a Thai word is pronounced correctly, both systems are insufficient yet. With ClickThai transcription, there is another system that specify the vowel length and the speaking tone with.


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