Thailand has a population of approximately 66 million, and is home to many diverse ethnic groups. The majority of these individuals, however, speak Thai, which is recognized as the country’s official language.

The Thai language is sometimes referred to as the Siamese language, and it belongs to the Tai-Kadai language family. It originated from several languages, including Sanskrit, Pali, and Old Khmer. Approximately 30% of Thailand’s population speak Thai as a native language. The Thai language is divided into several different languages, all of which are considered to be regional by native Thai speakers. These languages include: Phu Thai, Shan, Isan, Song, Nyaw, Phuan, Lu, Southern Thai and Northern Thai. Some of these diverse Thai languages are also considered minority languages of Thailand.

Other minority languages spoken in Thailand include Yawi, Lao, and Teochew. The Lao language, also known as Laotian, is the most widely spoken one of these, and is actually considered a dialect of the Isan language. The majority of Malay Muslims in Thailand speak Yawi, a dialect of Malay used as the language of business and commerce in rural southern areas of the country. Despite being considered a dialect, it has been isolated from other Malay languages for so long that the two have become mutually unintelligible. The Teochew language is considered a dialect of the Chinese Minnan language and has its roots in Old Chinese, using some of its vocabulary and pronunciation to this day.

Thailand is also home to many indigenous languages which belong to 5 language families: Thai, Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Mon-Khmer and Sino-Tibetan.

Phu Thai is the most widely spoken with approximately 870,000 native speakers in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. 156,000 Phu Thai speakers were reported in Thailand in 1993. Apart from Phu Thai, Saek, Nyaw and Yoy also belong to the Thai language family.

The Austronesian family includes Urak Lawoi and Moken, which is spoken by the Moken people living throughout the Mergui Archipelago by approximately 8,000 native speakers.

The Hmong-Mien language family includes the Hmong language, which is spoken by the Hmong people who have migrated to Thailand over the course of the last few hundred years. Around 3.7 million people speak Hmong as a native language, although not all of them are Thailand residents.

The Mon-Khmer language family has the largest number of indigenous languages in Thailand: Khmer, Mlabri, Orang Asli, Mon, and Lawa. Khmer is the most widely spoken with around 16 million speakers in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The Sino-Tibetan family includes two languages: Akhan and Karen. The Akha language is spoken by the Akha people in northern Thailand, most of which live in remote and mountainous regions of the country.


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