Re: Thai v. Lao (was: Lao Letter Fo Sung and Lao Letter Fo Tam)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Thu Oct 20 2005 - 15:57:58 CST

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    From: "Richard Wordingham" <>
    > Edward H. Trager wrote:
    >> On Wednesday 2005.10.19 18:56:18 +0100, Richard Wordingham wrote:
    >>> I'm rather surprised that Lao and Thai are distinct scripts.
    >> No, that is not a valid concept. Lao and Thai are clearly distinct
    >> scripts
    >> just as Greek and Latin and Cyrillic are distinct scripts.
    > Can you point me to the killer fact? Given the variety of Thai styles
    > (see e.g. Doug Cooper's 'How do Thais Tell Letters Apart'
    > , or via
    > if you can't read raw PostScript - or just look at the shop signs if
    > you're in Thailand), it's not obvious that it is a different script. It
    > seems more like a style with an army and a navy, in a region with a
    > tradition of endemicism. If this needs a discussion, we'd better find a
    > different forum (Yahoo group Qalam, perhaps), as it is far too late now
    > for them to be unified.

    The paper just exhibits rather well the genetic common relationships between
    the two modern scripts, but these scripts are now enough differentiated to
    have even more difference than between Latin, Greek and Cyrillic.. Since
    these scripts have also been used separately for long enough periods to
    write separate languages (much more than between the sets of languages that
    share the Latin, Greek or Cyrillic scripts), with little communication
    between communities of users of each script, due to low litteracy in the
    regions, and significant political separation for long enough periods, it is
    now very reasonnable to keep them encoded separately, as these scripts have
    their own separate history of use, and their own semantics.

    It's still true that one could adopt a common glyph style to represent the
    two scriipts, but the result would be necessarily hard to read from both
    Thai and Lao perspectives. And I'm quite sure that trying to unify them now
    would create lots of cases of ambiguity. (I won't say this will not occur,
    after all, Thai and Lao communities may be inventive and try to adopt a new
    common readable style, but this won't change the fact that each of them will
    keep their own rules for using the letters for their respective languages)

    Anyway,a text encoded with Thai adopts today a visual encoding (a legacy
    inheritance from the TIS standard), instead of the logical encoding used for
    other scripts. Trying to unify them would cause lots of problem with
    existing Thai text (Thai has a better and more ancient litteracy level).

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