Contemporary Lao Writing
Souksomboun Sayasithsena

Foreign Service Institute
US Department of State
Washington, D.C.


Lao writing evolved through times, from pure Pali to modified Pali-Lao. This occurred in the Wat or temple schools. In this presentation I will focus on the period of from late 1950’s until present. Discussion will cover variety of ways of how people conceptualize the Lao writing system. These three major writings: from the sound of words; the Royal Decree No. 10, in late 1950’s which included a set of rules; and a textbook by Mr. Phoumi Vongvichit, after 1975 which simplified each syllable spelling to a vowel and initial consonant with or without final. Some points on Lao alphabet charts will be mentioned: the new “sara IA” and the omission of “Ror”. And what happened since.

I will also discuss the extend to which the spelling of Lao words varies? This includes Lao-Nork vs. Lao-Nai spellings. Is it possible for the readers to instantly distinguish between the two? What is the reaction of readers to the two systems?

State-of-the art texts – the use of variety of Lao fonts in computers has made a big difference. Some examples will be presented to illustrate how typists tried to cope with columns and justified texts. I will also talk about some difficulties my Lao students have encountered when they use Lao-English dictionaries?

Punctuation is another issue that I will discuss. Some samples will accompany points of discussion.

Some grammar points will be discussed along with some features of Lao-way of speaking, such as stressing, repeating of words, and some Tong Toi.