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Basics of the language written Lao

The Lao alphabet uses a calligraphy derived from that of India and very near to the Thai alphabet (we can find in these two languages, similar groups of consonants and vowels, having almost the same pronunciation.)


There exists 34 consonants in the Lao language divided into 3 groups. Each of these groups corresponds to a vocal resonance when the letter is used, with or without tonal accent.

Lao consonnances

Consonants can, at the end of a word, signify a different pronunciation than that shown at the end of the word. In this way, the "d" at the end of a word, is pronounced "t", the "b" is pronounced "p"and the "v" is pronounced "oua".

At the last Lao literature committee, the letter "r", which is a typical symbol of French influence, was removed from the Lao alphabet.


There exists about 40 vowels, of which there are 12 brief, 7 brief "shortened", 12 long, 3 long "shortened" and 5 special.

Lao consonnances

Special vowel in Lao language

Of these 36 vowels, 4 are no longer used today as decreed at the last Lao Literary committee.

Tonal accents

There exists 4 tonal accents, of which 2 are used all the time and 2 others that only serve as interjections. These accents, give to the syllable that contains them, a different positioning of the voice daccording to whether the consonant is of the first, second or third group ...

Tones in Lao language

The tonal system, according to the 3 groups of consonants, creates 5 tones :

  • average tonal tone
  • rising high tone
  • descending average tone
  • descending low tone (also called settled descending)
  • descending-rising tone (controlled tone)
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