Lao (ພາສາລາວ phaasaa laao) is the official language of Laos. It is a tonal language of the Tai family, and is closely related to the language of the north-eastern Isan region of Thailand. The writing system of Lao is an abugida and is closely related to the writing system used in Thai.
Lao language can be divided into five main dialects :
- Vientiane Lao
- Northern Lao (Luang Prabang)
- North-Eastern Lao (Xieng Khouang)
- Central Lao (Khammouan)
- Southern Lao (Champasak)
Vientiane Lao is widely understood throughout the country.
Vientiane Lao has six tones: Low, Mid, High, Rising, High and Low Falling. Pitch levels vary from the speaker's ethnicity and geographic location. Luang Prabang residents use five tones: Mid Falling Rising, Low Rising, Mid, High Falling and Mid Rising.
The Lao alphabet is based on the same primitive alphabet as the Thai script, adapted itself from a southern Indian script borrowed by Khmer scholarship. It is made up of 33 consonants and 28 vowels representing respectively 21 and 27 original sounds, written from left to right.