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Royal Thai General System of Transcription

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Royal Thai General System of Transcription
Script type
CreatorRoyal Institute of Thailand
Time period
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS) is the official[1][2] system for rendering Thai words in the Latin alphabet. It was published by the Royal Institute of Thailand in early 1917, when Thailand was called Siam.[3][4]

It is used in road signs[5][6] and government publications and is the closest method to a standard of transcription for Thai, but its use, even by the government, is inconsistent. The system is almost identical to the one that is defined by ISO 11940-2.


Prominent features of the system are:

  • It uses only unmodified letters from the Latin alphabet without diacritics.
  • It spells all vowels and diphthongs with vowel letters: ⟨a⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨u⟩.
    • Single letters ⟨a⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨u⟩ are monophthongs (simple vowels), with the same value as in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
    • Digraphs with trailing ⟨e⟩ are monophthongs; ae, oe, ue sound like /ɛ, ɤ, ɯ/ respectively.
    • Digraphs and trigraphs with trailing ⟨a⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨o⟩ are diphthongs and indicate IPA /a, j, w/ respectively.
  • It uses consonants as in IPA except as follows:
    • Digraphs with ⟨h⟩ (ph, th, kh) are aspirated /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ/ consonants to distinguish them from unaspirated ⟨p⟩, ⟨t⟩, ⟨k⟩.
    • It uses ng for /ŋ/, as in English.
    • It uses ch for /tɕʰ/ and /tɕ/, somewhat like English.
    • It uses ⟨y⟩ for /j/, as in English.

Final consonants are transcribed according to pronunciation, not Thai orthography.

Vowels are transcribed in the position in the word where they are pronounced, not as in Thai orthography. Implied vowels, which are not written in Thai orthography, are transcribed as pronounced.

A hyphen is used to avoid ambiguity in syllable separation before a succeeding syllable that starts with a vowel and before ⟨ng⟩ if the preceding syllable ends with a vowel.

Transcribed words are written with spaces between them although there are no spaces in Thai. For example, "สถาบันไทยคดีศึกษา" Institute of Thai Studies is transcribed as "Sathaban Thai Khadi Sueksa". However, compounds and names of persons are written without spaces between words. For example, "ลูกเสือ" (from "ลูก" + "เสือ", scout) is transcribed as "luksuea", not "luk suea", and "โชคชัย จิตงาม", the first and last names of a person, is transcribed as "Chokchai Chitngam", not "Chok Chai Chit Ngam".[1]

Transcription table[edit]

For consonants, the transcriptions are given for both initial and final position in the syllable. For vowels, a dash ("–") indicates the relative position of the vowel's initial consonant.

Consonants   Vowels
Letter Initial position Final position
k k
ข ฃ ค ฅ ฆ kh k
ng ng
ch t
ฉ ช ch t
s t
ch -
y n
d t
t t
ฐ ฑ ฒ th t
n n
d t
t t
ถ ท ธ th t
n n
b p
p p
ph -
f -
ph p
f p
ph p
m m
y -
r n
rue, ri, roe -
ฤๅ rue -
l n
lue -
ฦๅ lue -
w -
s t
s t
s t
h -
l n
h -
Letter Romanisation
–ะ, –ั, รร (with final), –า a
รร (without final) an
–ำ am
–ิ, –ี i
–ึ, –ื, —ือ ue
–ุ, –ู u
เ–ะ, เ–็, เ– e
แ–ะ, แ– ae
โ–ะ, –, โ–, เ–าะ, –อ o
เ–อะ, เ–ิ, เ–อ oe
เ–ียะ, เ–ีย ia
เ–ือะ, เ–ือ uea
–ัวะ, –ัว, –ว– ua
ใ–, ไ–, –ัย, ไ–ย, –าย ai
เ–า, –าว ao
–ุย ui
โ–ย, –อย oi
เ–ย oei
เ–ือย ueai
–วย uai
–ิว io
เ–็ว, เ–ว eo
แ–็ว, แ–ว aeo
เ–ียว iao


There have been four versions of the RTGS, those promulgated in 1932, 1939, 1968 and 1999. The general system was issued by the Ministry of Public Instruction in 1932, and subsequent issues have been issued by the Royal Institute of Thailand.

Table of changes[edit]

Letter Initial position Final position
1932 1939 1968 1999 1932 1939 1968 1999
č čh ch ch t
ru rue -
roe roe -
ฤๅ ru rue -
lu lue -
ฦๅ lu lue -
Letter Romanisation
1932 1939 1968 1999
–ึ, –ื ư ư u ue
แ–ะ, แ– æ ae ae
เ–าะ, –อ ǫ o o
เ–อะ, เ–ิ, เ–อ ơ œ oe oe
เ–ือะ, เ–ือ ưa ưa ua uea
–อย o̦i ǫi oi oi
เ–ย ơi œi oei oei
เ–ือย ưai ưai uai ueai
–ิว iu iu iu io
แ–็ว, แ–ว e̩o æo aeo aeo
เ–ียว iau ieo ieo iao

1932 version[edit]

The general system was set up by a committee of the Ministry of Public Instruction on the following principles:[7]

  1. The general system should be expandable to the precise system.
  2. The general system should be based on pronunciation, and one sound should be represented by one symbol or letter.
  3. The general system should be in consonance with the principles of Thai grammar, orthography, and pronunciation.
  4. In selecting symbols or letters, account should be taken of existing types for printing and typewriting and of existing systems of transcription.

The committee considered that for the general system, tone and quantity marks were unneeded. They would be provided for the precise system.[7] The marks are accents above the vowels,[7] one reason that the vowel symbols used to have no marks above them.[8]

1939 version[edit]

The 1939 issue allowed short vowels to be marked with a breve (˘) where expedient.[7] By contrast, the ALA-LC transliteration uses the 1939 version with the addition of a macron (¯) for long vowels and a spiritus asper (ʽ) to transliterate อ /ʔ/ as a consonant.

The changes in vowel notation copied existing usage (æ, œ)[9] and IPA notation (æ, ǫ).[7]

Relationship to precise system[edit]

The precise system was issued along with the general system in 1939. A transliteration in the precise system could be converted to the general system by doing the following:[7]

  1. Removing parenthesised character
  2. Replacing ʽ and by h
  3. Removing length and tone markings
  4. Removing , which corresponds to ะ /ʔ/, which may be viewed as a length mark
  5. Removing the character distinguishing dots below and primes
  6. Changing ay and aiy to ai except before vowels
  7. Changing č to čh
  8. Changing ie to ia, uo to ua and ưœ to ưa

The last set of changes removes a graphic distinction between vowels in closed syllables and vowels in open syllables.[7]

The h is added to č in the general system to make it easier to read. When the diacritic was subsequently removed, the h was justified as avoiding the misreading of the transliteration as /k/ or /s/ rather than the correct /tɕ/.[3]

1968 version[edit]

The 1968 version removed diacritics, including the horn of ư and replaced the ligatures æ and œ by ae and oe. While that is more suitable as the standard transliteration for maps, it removed the contrast between the transcriptions of จ /tɕ/ and ช /tɕʰ/, อึ /ɯ/ and อุ /u/, เอือ /ɯa/ and อัว /ua/, and โอ /oː/ and ออ /ɔː/.[3]

1999 version[edit]

The 1999 version restored the distinction between the transcriptions of the pairs อึ /ɯ/ and อุ /u/ and เอือ /ɯa/ and อัว /ua/.[3] It also simplified the transliteration of final ว /w/, which now is always transcribed <o>.[3]

Allowed variants[edit]

The following variants have been allowed:

Preferred form čh æ œ ǫ ơ ư
Alternative ĉh[7] ae[8] oe[8] [7] [7] [7]


The system does not transcribe all features of Thai phonology. Particularly it has the following shortcomings:

  • It does not record tones.
  • It does not differentiate between short and long vowels.
  • The notation ⟨ch⟩ does not differentiate between IPA /tɕ/ and IPA /tɕʰ/ (see table below). Using ⟨c⟩ for /tɕ/ would have been more consistent[10] with the other stops and is used as such in ISO 11940-2.
  • The notation ⟨o⟩ does not differentiate between IPA /ɔ/ and IPA /o/ (see table below).
  Phoneme 1 Phoneme 2
RTGS Thai IPA Description English Thai IPA Description English
ch /tɕ/ alveo-palatal
roughly like ⟨ty⟩ in "let you"
[citation needed]
ฉ, ช, ฌ /tɕʰ/ aspirated alveo-
palatal affricate
roughly like ⟨ch⟩ in "check"
o โ–ะ, – /oʔ/ close-mid back
short rounded
like the vowel in "note"
(American pronunciation)
เ–าะ /ɔʔ/ open-mid back
short rounded
like ⟨o⟩ in "boy"
โ– /oː/ close-mid back
long rounded
like ⟨o⟩ in "go" (Scottish English) –อ /ɔː/ open-mid back
long rounded
like ⟨aw⟩ in "raw"

The original design envisioned the general system to give broad details of pronunciation, and the precise system to supplement that with vowel lengths, tones, and specific Thai characters used.[7] The ambiguity of ⟨ch⟩ and ⟨o⟩ was introduced in the 1968 version.

The system is confusing for English speakers and leads to constant mispronunciation. It is a technical system rather than a practical system. For example in a practical system ผ, พ and ภ would be transcribed as ⟨p⟩ while ป would be ⟨bp⟩. Similarly ท would be ⟨t⟩ and ต would be ⟨dt⟩ while ค would be ⟨k⟩ and ก would be ⟨g⟩. The idea of using ⟨h⟩ to represent aspirated sounds is totally confusing for general use. Finally จ would be more clearly transcribed as ⟨j⟩.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b ประกาศสำนักนายกรัฐมนตรี เรื่อง หลักเกณฑ์การถอดอักษรไทยเป็นอักษรโรมันแบบถ่ายเสียง (PDF), Royal Gazette (in Thai), 116 (37 ง): 11, 1999-05-11, archived from the original (PDF) on January 27, 2012
  2. ^ Report on the Current Status of United Nations Romanization Systems for Geographical Names: Thai (PDF)
  3. ^ a b c d e Standard for transcribing the Thai alphabet into the Roman alphabet by conveying the sound (PDF) (in Thai)
  4. ^ Principles of Romanization for Thai Script by Transcription Method (PDF) (UN document)
  5. ^ Handbook and standard for traffic signs (PDF) (in Thai), Appendix ง, archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-15, retrieved 2017-11-15
  6. ^ geographical names (in Thai), 7 August 2021
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "A Notification of the Royal Institute concerning the Transcription of Thai Characters into the Roman" (PDF), The Journal of the Thailand Research Society, XXXIII: 49–65, March 1941, retrieved 20 September 2012
  8. ^ a b c "Afterthoughts on the Romanization of Siamese" (PDF), Journal of the Siam Society, XLVIII: 29–68, June 1960, retrieved 24 September 2012
  9. ^ Vajiravudh (1913), "The Romanisation of Siamese Words." (PDF), Journal of the Siam Society, 9 (4), retrieved 2012-07-06
  10. ^ Principles of Romanization for Thai Script by Transcription Method (PDF) (English version)


External links[edit]