Thai-Isan-Lao Phrasebook (White Lotus, 2000) Asger Mollerup worked for a short
period on the Phutai language as it is spoken in his multi-ethnic village,
Ban Kaeng Nang, Dong Luang District, Mukdahan Province, Thailand, where he
has been living for nearly two decades. The Phutai dialect
of Kaeng Nang Village is an off-spring of the Phutai from the
neighbouring Khao Wong District, Kalasin Province, from where
the village formerly was administered.
Due to other tasks the
author had to shelf the studies of Phutai language until he January 1,
2007 married a Phutai woman and moved to her village, Ban Na Ko, Boa Khao (Kutchinarai)
District, Kalasin Province. Now living in a mono-ethnic culture the
inspiration for Phutai came to live again - with 'Mor
Let' (Thanyalux Chayasook Mollerup) as an inspiring co-writer.
In the first part of 2007 both authors were busy with work and
individual projects. Now in the rainy season 2007 we work together
again: Phutai 'writing manual', as the Phutai has no written language and no
general consensus on how to write it.
In 2006 the two authors compiled wordlists in Thai, Lao-Isan and Phutai
containing words where the phonemes differ from one another. For example
'beautiful': Phutai: sap, Thai: suai, Lao: ngam.
The Phutai language project will in many ways be similar to the
Thai-Isan-Lao Phrasebook containing phrases, wordlists, grammar by
writing manuals for Phutai as well as Thai and Lao. The writing will
be done using Thai and Lao letters. Thai letters for Central Thai and
Phutai in Thailand. Lao letters for Lao and Phutai in Laos P.D.R. For
the non-native speakers IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) will be
applied. Everything will be translated into English. And sound-tracks
will be done on Phutai.
Phutai is like Thai and Lao a tonal language belonging to the Tai-Kadai
language family. The Phutai live in a Lao language environment, but is
not a Lao dialect. Phutais are often referred to as Phutai Dam (Black
Phutai) and Phutai Khao (White Phutai). Some writers associate the
Phutai with the Tai Dam and Thai Khao (and even Thai Daeng and Tai Lai)
of Northern Lao and NW-Vietnam (Sip Song Chu Tai or Sip Song Chao Tai, Dien
Bien Phu, Muang Thaen). The authors believe that this should be modified to
that the area of origin probably is the same and that the groups are
closely related - but different. An arguments for this working-theory is
based on comparative linguistics: Tai Dam have diphthongs, Phutai have
not. For example: Tai Dam: 'wife': mia, 'cow': ngua,
'north': nuea is in Phutai: mee, ngoo, noe.
Comparative studies in tonal systems will surely tell to what extend the
languages - and the ethnic groups - are related.
All proto-tai words are mono-syllabic and the phonemes
mostly identical. For example: 'mother': mae, 'eat': kin,
and 'water': naam will the same in the three languages, but the
tones added to the phonemes are different. See tonal systems /
The Phutai in NE-Thailand were resettled from different areas
of southern Laos in the 19th century. They say that they have different
dialects. These dialects mostly differs in use of tonal system. The
Phutai on the other side of the Mekong will probably differ in tonal
systems as well. Maybe it will be possible to link Phutai dialects on
the two sides of the Mekong by comparing tonal cards and thereby trace
the origin of a Phutai dialect in Isan (NE-Thailand).
The proto-tai phonemes of the Phutai dialects along the
eastern and western side of the Mekong are expected to be very much alike.
The Lao Phutai might have a more archaic vocabulary.
An initial study tour to the Phutai area in
Sawannakhet Province in Southern Laos on the other side of the Mekong
River will be
conducted after the rainy season.
Later visits will include elders of our community, who
will be valuable informants on similarities/differences in language and
culture on the two sides of the Mekong River.
Friends of ours, doing projects about Phutai healing, herbal medicine
and massage (mor jau, mor pau, mor samunphrai, mor nuat),
Phutai weaving, Phutai history, extinct vocabulary, etc have been invited to contribute
with separate web-pages - hopefully being chapters in a coming book.
Others could join as well. The project is open - and so
is the Indo China Bridge crossing the Mekong River at