Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spelling reform

The Thai word for the districts (Amphoe) is usually spelled อำเภอ, using the relatively rare character pho sam-phao. However in some Royal Gazette entries in the 1940s it is spelled อำเพอ instead, using the character pho phan. Both characters are absolutely identical, having the same pronounce and belonging to the same consonant class, the only reason to have different letters is to spell words originally from Sanskrit or Pali according to their original spelling. There apparently was a spelling reform at that time trying to make these duplicate letters obsolete, however it was rather short-lived as the old spellings show up again.

Another word which changed spelling during this reform was the one for subdistrict (Tambon) - normally spelled ตำบล (notice the lo ling at end, pronounced as a "n"), which was then changed to ตำบน with the no nu at end. For me this spelling reform would have been nice, then it would be a little bit more easy to learn to read and write Thai without having to care about the special spellings for words from Sanskrit/Pali. Also the Thai numerals were completely exchanged with the arabic ones.

One example for an announcement with this different spelling is the abolishment of Nakhon Nayok Province, which took place in 1943. When the province was recreated in 1946 the spelling reform was already over as well. So apparently this reform was one of the actions of the first rule of Field Marshall Phibul Songkhram, who had to resign when it became apparent that the Japanese, with whom Thailand allied, will loose the World War.

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