Goal. The goal of this module is to introduce you to the notion of lexical tones: tones on syllables/words that, when changed, carry differences in meaning. You will learn about tones interactively by listening to examples of tones and seeing the words that carry contrasting tones illustrated with pictures such as 'noodles' vs. 'bear', 'dog' vs. 'horse', or 'tiger' vs.'shirt' vs. 'mat'. You will also learn about tone-meaning differences through a series of interactive exercises and tests that provide you with immediate feedback that you can use to sharpen your listening comprehension skills with repeated practice. From here you can go on to the many sound discrimination exercises that are part of Spoken Lao found on this site.
Background. Lao is a tonal language. The dialect of Vientiane has five spoken tones: Low Rising, Low Falling, High Rising, High Falling, and High Mid. Each syllable carries one of these five tones, all things considered.
A change of tone results in a change of meaning. Tones are relatively high, mid or low; rising or falling. So it is difficult to hear them in isolation. In order to make the relative contrasts easier to distinguish you will hear two or more syllables side by side: High Rising, High Mid, and so on.
2003 SEAsite Laos