Talk:Romanization of Lao

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Sources and authorities[edit]

The references about who exactly introduced this romanisation scheme are very vague, and there are no references given ("a royal edict", "the French system") and there is no information about any regulating authorities. If the Lao government prescribes a certain romanization, the article should mention that. I've added some references that can be used to expand this article. — Babelfisch 01:31, 14 September 2005 (UTC)


See e.g. this:, it's impossible to even guess what scheme it uses. This article seems quite incomplete. Jalwikip (talk) 19:21, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Which one should we use???[edit]

The community has gone in widly different directions on the romanization of Lao and it is high time we fixed a norm. How should one transcribe ລ້ານຊ້າງ? The common possibilities are: Lan Xang, LanXang, Lanxang, LaneXang, Lanexang, Lane Xang, Lan Sang, LanSang, Lansang.

I went through some official papers and bills from reputed local companies only to find no dominant system. Consonants are generally BGN/PCGN, there is some leeway for vowels ("muang"/"mueang" for city, "lan*e*" for million...) and no general agreement on spacing.

The issue of transcription:

The base debate is between BGN/PCGN, ALA/LC, and a new system.

    • use: largely used albeit in an approximate form - in street names and by most local companies and government offices, in principle used by France and the UK, used by French colonial authorities, by the EFEO
    • consonants: overly simplifying yet less than the other system (due to the distinction between the spelling of ສ and ຊ), few inconsistencies recorded (no need to follow them... - eg. ຍ = gn or y)
    • vowels: fairly unprecise yet easier to type (ກຶ - u vs. ư), very misleading pronunciation for that written "u" and no distinction between long vowels and short vowels
    • tones: none considered
  • ALA/LC:
    • use: used by the US Library of Congress and apparently no one else, though its consonant system is far from uncommon
    • consonants: overly easier to grasp for English speakers, purely (atonal) phonetical (no distinction between ສ and ຊ), apparently quite a number of inconsistencies recorded (no need to follow them... - eg. ຜ = ph or p)
    • vowels: fairly precise but hard to type and to understand (Polish-style ǫ and Vietnamese ư), distinction between short and long but even harder to type (ǣ anyone?), French-styled vowels (è, é, ô) which won't be used or understood by English-speakers
    • tones: none considered
  • Or... We could in fact work on a Wikipedia system after simply deciding on whether we wish to prioritize the original spelling of consonants (in bijection with the two writing systems) or their pronunciation (in bijection with the IPA pronunciation) and working on a user-friendly system for typing, learners, and short contact users (tourists...).

The issue of spacing:

We should also decide how to space:

  • by syllables (as in Vietnamese (language)) - the easiest to apply but at use, the compounds are hard to isolate
  • by compounds - great for practical use but needs to be complemented with a system to remove pronunciation ambiguities (when spacing by syllables, that's fairly easy: "Pa Kou" or "Pak Ou"?) - some options: PakOu (add an uppercase to every syllable), Pak'Ou, Pak'ou, Pak-Ou. Adding the marker only to possible pronunciation ambiguities would remove dilemmas (ThoLaSap, TholaSap or Tholasap...) and sheer ugliness (BoLiSat, PaThet...).

Vote? - Fix, don't fix. - 1st choice, 2nd choice.

Rdavout (talk) 12:44, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

My vote:

  • FIX
  • 1st choice: new system with Wades-Giles-style "'" for separation of syllables in ambiguous compounds; short and long vowels; consonants and vowels in bijection - with a supplementary system using Pinyin-style tones
  • 2nd choice: consistent use of BGN/PCGN.

Rdavout (talk) 14:06, 25 December 2009 (UTC)


I think we should consider what factors make a romanisation system appropriate for use on Wikipedia before thinking about which, if any, Lao romanisation system is should be recommended for use. Since the main purpose of a romanisation system appears to be providing a unique, memorable name for a subject in a foreign language, perhaps the most important factors are:

  • uniqueness (minimising the number of words that convert to the same romanised form)
  • ease of use (eg: avoid exotic Vietnamese-style diacritics to ease typing)

Finally, since Lao itself has a mix of systems in use, unless there is a clearly superior or dominant system I am not sure that we should select one at all. Certainly articles on major places and people should continue to list all popular romanised forms, however for new articles on remote locations or lesser-known Lao subjects, perhaps if a superior system can be identified we could recommend (but not mandate) its use.

To weigh in on this matter I have asked a linguist friend of mine who has lived in remote parts of Lao to come and contribute. prat (talk) 07:44, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Lao Transcription in Praxis[edit]

In reality, you're looking at a situation where three different sources of influence converge:

  • Pali transcription standards
  • Thai transcription standards
  • I.P.A.

Currently, if you look at textbooks and official standards in Laos, they're a mix of these three (and only toponyms follow disused French colonial standards; I was always surprised at the lack of anti-French sentiment in this regard, but the Lao government is happy to spell (e.g.) /Nyot Ou/ as /Gnot Ou/ --despite the fact that nobody uses the French style /Gn/ for any other purpose but colonial-era toponyms!).

Unless Wikipedia introduces an original standard, you are not going to have a true one-to-one correspondence --i.e., you'll have a system of imperfect phonetic notation, but not of accurate transcription (this is especially obvious in the tone-specific consonant ranges).

Given the range of three forms of influence aforementioned, the choices you can make are as follows:

  • Either to retain the macron to distinguish long (from short) vowel sounds, or to discard it
  • If you discard the macron, you'll need to consistently use the IPA-style "triangular colon" to mark long vowels (because the complex vowels that Lao uses makes it impossible to consistently render them with combining overhead breve --and, similarly, doubling of written consonants is a complete mess).
  • You'll want a simple, consistent guideline for the use of digraph "-h" (ph vs. p, etc.) and this will probably result in, e.g., non-traditional spellings of some familiar words.
  • You'll need to enforce a standard for not writing "r" where there is no "r" in modern Lao (e.g., there's no "r" in Luang Prabang!).
  • You'll need to decide if you want to retain (or discard) the "dot below" to indicate historically (viz., Pali) retroflex forms (this is less important for Lao than it is for Thai).
  • From my perspective, there's no choice about the use of /x/ --it is vitally important to distinguish this glyph from the other /s/ glyph(s) (especially because it equates to historical /j/).

And, if you get bored, you can always refer to my own website:  —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:52, 4 January 2010 (UTC)