Towards a Computerization of the Lao
Tham System of Writing
Grégory KOURILSKY* and Vincent BERMENT**
** INALCO and GETA-CLIPS (IMAG)
Although the subject of under-resourced languages is a problem often taken into consideration, one omits to make the distinction with under-resourced scripts. The Tham script of Laos, used to write Buddhist Texts, is one of the two official writing systems used in Lao P.D.R. (Laos). But if the other one — the so-called “laic” Lao script — is now quite well computerized (numerous fonts, input software, word processors, Unicode area), the Tham script seems to have always been forsaken by modern technologies (typewriters and computers). And this phenomenon does not seem to be being reversed soon since the Unicode Standard does not integrate it in any zone. Understanding the sociological and technical reasons of this neglect, we present an approach to mend it:
• Distinction between two "sub-writing" systems, each working in its own manner:
o P-Tham (Tham transcribing the Pali language),
o L-Tham (Tham transcribing the Lao language),
• Comparison between two families of input methods and selection of one of them:
• Proposal of a Unicode chart for the Tham script (presented in the Private Area Zone”).
Then we describe the tools we developed for entering Tham text in a word processor:
• A “Unicode” font called Tham Unicode,
• A Microsoft Word add-in called ThamWord that allows typing “Unicode” Tham.
We finally present another tool that could be developed in the future, that is a collaborative web site aimed at building L-Tham and P-Tham dictionaries on-line.