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Tai Dam Phonology*

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Tones (Tone Chart)
Tai Dam has six tones, numbered 1-6 below:
Smooth Syllables:
1.    level, slightly lower than mid: maa1 ‘dog,’ hua1 ‘head.’
2.    high rising: kay2 ‘chicken,’ faa2 ‘to split.’
3.    low falling in the dialect of baan3 ciang4 di1, but low falling and then rising in the dialect of mfaN4 piang4;
       glottalized in both dialects: sfa3 ‘shirt,’ haa3 ‘five.’ In the mfaN4 piang4 dialect this tone sometimes sounds
       like low falling and sometimes like low rising. The explanation seems to be that in slow speech the tone is
       low falling and then rising, but in more rapid speech sometimes the fall is more prominent and sometimes
       rises.  (Ban Ciang Di is 35 km. west of Sonla.   Muang Piang is 44 km. from Sonla in the direction of Lai         Chao.)
4.    high level: naa4 ‘rice field,’ Nua4 ‘ox.’
5.    level, somewhat higher than mid: naN5 ‘to sit,’ pi5 ‘older sibling.’
6.    falling and glottalized: hu6 ‘to know,’ lin6 ‘tongue.’
Checked Syllables (syllables ending in p t k ?):
2.    high rising: sip2 ‘ten,’ bO? ‘flower,’
5.    level, slightly higher than mid: mot5 ‘ant,’ nO? ‘outside.’ On syllables with diphthong or long vowel there
       is a slight fall: lfat5 ‘blood,’ taa?5 ‘ land leech.’
Initial Consonants (Consonant Chart)
?  p  t  k c  th  kh  m   n N    b  d  v l  y s  f h
There is fluctuation between b and d; d and l
y is often pronounced like English z, especially in slow, careful speech
Tai Dam has clusters: kw,, khw, Nw.
Final Consonants
?  p  t  k w  y  f
The final k in Siamese (Thai) syllables becomes a glottal stop [?] in Tai Dam in syllables that have a short vowel in Siamese.
Three diphthongs end in semi-vowels: w y f
Vowels (Vowel Chart)
Tai Dam has nine vowels, plus three dipthongs ia fa ua, with a length distinction only in a versus aa:

i     f     u     e   e   o   E    a   O
ia   fa   ua                       aa


*This description is adapted from the article, “A Comparative Sketch of White, Black and Red Tai” published in Selected Papers on Comparative Tai Studies by William J. Gedney, 1989, pp. 415-461.

Home | Overview | Introduction | Phonology | Consonants | Vowels | Tones | Alphabet Book | Keyboard
Tai Dam Origin Myth
(with Translation) | The Tale of Prince Therng (with Transcription)
Fortune Teller's Manual | Gallery | Etude de la Language | Bibliography

2003 SEAsite
Last Modified: 09/24/03