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Thai, or more precisely Siamese or Central Thai, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people and Thai Chinese. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Over half of the words in Thai are the amalgamation of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Tai-Mon-Khmer language. It is a tonal and analytic language. Thai also has a complex orthography and relational markers. Thai is mutually intelligible with Lao.
Thai is the official language of Thailand, spoken by over 20 million people (2000), Standard Thai is based on the register of the educated classes of Bangkok. In addition to Central Thai, Thailand is home to other related Tai languages. Although linguists usually classify these idioms as related, but distinct languages, native speakers often identify them as regional variants of the “same” Thai language, or as “different kinds of Thai”.
- Isan (Northeastern Thai), the language of the Isan region of Thailand, a collective term for the various Lao dialects spoken in Thailand that show some Siamese Thai influences, which is written with the Thai script. It is spoken by about over 20 million people. Thais from both inside and outside the Isan region often simply call this variant “Lao” when speaking informally.
- Northern Thai (Phasa Nuea, Lanna, Kam Mueang, or Thai Yuan), spoken by about 6 million (1983) in the formerly independent kingdom of Lanna (Chiang Mai). Shares strong similarities with Lao to the point that in the past the Siamese Thais referred to it as Lao.
- Southern Thai (Thai Tai, Pak Tai, or Dambro), spoken by about 4.5 million (2006)
- Phu Thai, spoken by about half a million around Nakhon Phanom Province, and 300,000 more in Laos and Vietnam (2006).
- Phuan, spoken by 200,000 in central Thailand and Isan, and 100,000 more in northern Laos (2006).
- Shan (Thai Luang, Tai Long, Thai Yai), spoken by about 100,000 in north-west Thailand along the border with the Shan States of Burma, and by 3.2 million in Burma (2006).
- Lü (Tai Lue, Dai), spoken by about 80,000 (2001) in northern Thailand, and 600,000 more in China, Burma, and Laos (1981–2000).
- Nyaw language, spoken by 50,000 in Nakhon Phanom Province, Sakhon Nakhon Province, Udon Thani Province of Northeast Thailand (1990).
- Song, spoken by about 30,000 in central and northern Thailand (2000).