Language

Laos official language is Lao. Lao is a tonal Tai-Kradai language. The origin of the language can be traced back 2000 years ago in the Guangxi- Guizhou-Hunan region in southern China and to the bordering areas of northern Vietnam. This language is widely spoken by most people in Laos and in the North Eastern part of Thailand. French is the only foreign language that is still used on signs and understood by some older people particularly the elites while English is becoming far more popular in the country specifically in the field of tourism and industry.

Lao language is an isolating analytic tone language with no inflectional morphology. Words usually have one stressed syllables and various words have a non-stressed pre-syllable in addition. Syllables are based around consonants while vowels are signified by diacritics that can be seen around, above or below the consonant letters. The Lao language has six lexical tones- level, rising, high rising, low rising, high falling and low falling. The tone of the syllable can be determined by the combination of the consonant.

However, it isn’t the only language commonly spoken in the country for Laos has quite a number of ethnic groups (including Hmong, Mon-Khmer and others), and almost all of them have their own dialects and sub-dialects. Most of the dialects used by ethnic groups are related to dialects or languages used by countries surrounding Laos. Other languages spoken in Laos as Austro-Asiatic language; Miao- Yao languages; Tibeto-Burman languages; Central Khmer; Mandarin Chinese, Sedang ;and Tampuan, Vietnamese.

Lao script is derived from Pali writing and closely related to Khmer writing. Lao language has 20 consonant sounds and one silent consonant which can be written with one of 33 consonant letters. Consonants <i>(Payungsana)</i> are divided into 3 groups according to the tone in which they are spoken : high sounding consonants <i>(Akson Sooung)</i>; middle sounding consonants <i>(Akson Kang)</i>; and low sounding consonants <i>(Akson Tum)</i>. In order to fully understand Lao language one must be knowledgeable not only with its consonants but also with its vowels. Lao vowels <i>(sala)</i> are grouped into two; the short vowel sounds and the long vowel sounds. Lao script has 39 vowel sounds.