I don’t often have occasion to try to decipher a bit of Thai, but when I do, I’ll be awfully glad to be able to simply type it into thai2english rather than having to leaf through Mary Haas’s Thai-English Student’s Dictionary trying to find the right string of characters. Once you’ve entered your text, you get this notice:

The transliteration for the text you entered is shown below. Moving your mouse over any underlined word will bring up a dictionary definition for it, or you can get a more detailed definition by clicking on the word. Clicking on the arrow at the start of each line will show a definition of every word in that line.

And it works! Thanks go to MMcM of Polyglot Vegetarian for linking to it in the course of a long and fascinating entry on a Boston Thai restaurant named Coconut Cafe, part of which is devoted to an examination of the words for ‘coconut’ in many languages; the only thing I would have added is the tidbit that Persian نارگیل nārgil, “from one of the Indian languages” (cf. Sanskrit नारीकेल nārikela), is the source of English narghile, since coconuts were originally used in making the things. (Oh, and I would have put macrons on the long a’s. Picky, picky.)


  1. You know, I actually started out with something like IAST with macrons on some a’s and dots under some l’s, since that’s what my print dictionaries and the ones online at Chicago do. But then when I couldn’t get that level of reversibility elsewhere I stripped everything down to just letters, going for consistency. I guess I wasn’t actually consistent, since I left the Mandarin tones and Vietnamese diacritics. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to do as you suggest and at least mark the long vowels. So I’ve gone back and fixed it. Thanks for keeping me honest.
    I wonder how feasible it would be to have an online transliteration tool that let you paste in any Unicode and came up with something standard like ALA (which has coverage if not consistency). You’d need to say what language a lot of the time. Chinese and Japanese would need a dictionary, obviously. Also to know where to insert spaces when the script doesn’t have them. ALA has 43 rules on that for Thai. Mongolian would avoid its usual problem of not knowing which letter one of combining forms that look alike was from; but I guess that really just shows how inherently useless it would be in practice for anyone except a handful of us. If you’ve already got the Unicode, you’ve got the glyph names and that’s often enough unless you want to annotate something isolated like here.

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