Tai VietTavt

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Geographic Use of the Tai Viet Script
Printed Tai Viet Text
Sociolinguistic Background of the Tai Viet Script
Tai Don Written in the Tai Viet Script
Writing Tai Dón in the Tai Viet Script
Writing the Tai Dam language


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  • The Tai Viet script is used by three Tai languages spoken primarily in northwestern Vietnam, northern Laos, and central Thailand—Tai Dam (also Black Tai or Tai Noir), Tai Dón (White Tai or Tai Blanc), and Thai Song (Lao Song or Lao Song Dam). The Thai Song people of Thailand are geographically removed from, but linguistically related to the Tai people of Vietnam and Laos.
    There are also Tai speaking populations in Australia, China, France, and the United States.


    Jim Brase, 'Proposal to encode the Tai Viet script in the UCS', 2007 p. 2

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • A sample of Tai Viet text typed using SIL's Tai Heritage font. The letter shapes are based on drawings by Mr. Faah Baccam.

    ContributorSteph Holloway
  • The Ethnologue (Gordon 2005) estimates the total population of the five languages which currently use the Tai Viet script to be almost 1.5 million. (Tai Dam 764,000, Tai Dón 490,000, Tai Daeng 145,000 Thai Song 32,000, Tày Tac unknown.) This includes populations in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, as well as those which have emigrated to Australia, China, France and the United States. The script is still used by the Tai people in Vietnam, and there is a desire to introduce it into formal education there (Cầm Trọng 2005). On the other hand, it is not known whether it is in current use in Laos, Thailand, or China.

    Several different spellings have been employed for the name of the language and the script. Some users prefer the spelling “Tay”, firstly because it more closely reflects their own pronunciation for the name of their language, secondly because the spelling “Tai” resembles their word for “death”, and thirdly because of some negative connotations associated with the spelling “Tai” in Vietnamese. But these feelings are by no means universal. At least one major group in the Tai community in Des Moines, Iowa, has indicated that they prefer to use the spelling “Tai”.

    After some debate and experimenting with other names, the name which was accepted into the Unicode Standard was “Tai Viet”. The spelling “Tai” appears to be less confusing to the IT community which must implement the script. “Viet” distinguishes this script from other Tai scripts, while recognizing the fact that 90% of the user community is in Vietnam. The format is also parallel to names like “Tai Le”, making it easy to find when searching for “Tai”.


    Jim Brase, 'Proposal to encode the Tai Viet script in the UCS', 2007, p. 1

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • A handwritten text in Tai Don using the Tai Viet script from Khhãm Kháo Đi Chảu Dê-su Seo Lũng Ók Mác Tẻm.


    Jim Brase, 'Proposal to encode the Tai Viet script in the UCS', 2007

    ContributorSteph Holloway
  • Western linguists generally classify Tai Dam and Tai Dón as two separate languages (the Vietnamese government considers them to be two dialects of the same language). It is not known whether Jinping Dai should be classified as a separate language or as a dialect of one of the other two languages.

    The three languages differ with respect to tone systems, but these differences are not represented in the writing.

    The phonetic inventories of Tai Dón and, it is believed, Jinping Dai, contain four syllable-initial aspirated consonants which Tai Dam does not. This difference is accounted for in the Tai Viet character repertoire as encoded in The Unicode Standard. High and low form characters for /ph/, /tɕh/ and /kh/ were added for the purpose of representing these additional Tai Dón consonants. (The fourth additional consonant, /khw/ can be written using the labialization marker discussed in 'behaviour'.) Even using these additional characters however, Tai Dón can only be written using the orthographic conventions of Son La province. Additional characters would need to be encoded to enable it to be written with Lai Chau conventions.

    The Tai Dam phonetic inventory contains three vowel glides, /iə/, /ɨə/ and /uə/, which in Tai Dón and Jinping Dai consistently change to /e/, /ə/ and /o/ respectively. Accordingly, in the writing, the symbols used for /iə/ and /uə/ in Tai Dam are used to represent /e/ and /o/.

    There is considerable variation in orthographic conventions between speakers of the Tai Dam, Tai Dón and Jinping Dai languages, as well as within the Tai Dón community.


    Jim Brase, 'Writing Tai Don - additional characters needed for the Tai Viet script' 2008

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • The Tai Dam language is written in three scripts. This facilitates reading by speakers from different educational backgrounds. As well as the Tai Viet script, a modified form of the Lao script and a modified form of the Latin script as used for Vietnamese are also used. All three scripts represent the same sounds.

    ContributorScriptSource Staff



Copyright © 2017 SIL International and released under the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (CC-BY-SA) unless noted otherwise. Language data includes information from the  Ethnologue. Script information partially from the  ISO 15924 Registration Authority. Some character data from  The Unicode Standard Character Database and locale data from the  Common Locale Data Repository. Used by permission.