If you’d like to learn how to read and write Thai, normally you will start with alphabets, right?
In Thai language, there are 44 consonant letters. It’s funny because there are 2 characters which we don’t use anymore, but we still count them as part of our alphabets. Any ideas?
Right, I’m talking about ฃ and ฅ.
So, when did ฃ and ฅ be created and for what reason?
For the first question, we have got evidence from the King Ramkhamhaeng Insription, aka Ram Khamhaeng Stele (composed in 1292), that we did have these two letters starting from the beginning.
Referring to the inscription, you could find some examples of ฃ and ฅ, such as ฃึ้น, ฃุน, ฃาม, ฅำ, ฅู้ม, ฅวาม etc. and these two still be used until Rattanakosin Era (1782 – present).
ฃ and ฅ were left from the writing system firstly when the first Thai typewriter was developed by Edwin Hunter McFarland in 1892. Why? No space for all letters!
Although these two were still be used popularly in King Vajiravudh’s reign (1910 – 1925), their usage became less and less after that until there were only one word of each left: เฃตร and ฅอ.
When Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, locally known as Chomphon Por; contemporarily known as Phibun in the West, served as the Prime Minister of Thailand (1948 – 1957), many consonant letters and vowels were eliminated from the writing system. Of course, ฃ and ฅ were included.
The others consonants have resumed their usage after Chomphon Por’s period of time but not these two consonants.
So, we are back to the second question. If they were not that important why did we have them?
From many of Thai specialists’ assumptions, they do believe that at the beginning, ฃ and ฅ must represent different sounds from ข and ค respectively but nobody really knows which sounds exactly.
Do you know all the Thai consonants which represent /k/ sound?