As a result of increasing globalisation and the rise of the Asian economies, ever greater importance is being assigned to the languages of the East. Monotype is staying abreast of these changes by putting together an extensive portfolio of fonts that can be used for setting texts in the various different languages of the region; this includes a wide assortment of different typefaces that can be employed for setting Thai language texts.
The nature of the Thai writing systemIn contrast with the concepts employed by all Western languages, Thai does not employ an alphabet-based system but is a so-called ‘abugida’; in other words, Thai script shares the features of an alphabet and a syllabary. As in the case of Indian Devanagari, the symbols used to represent a syllable are constructed from specific segments. Each consonant is always accompanied by a vowel. The 44 characters for consonants of Thai written language are read from left to right. At the same time, however, the three types of accompanying vowels can be positioned above or below or to the right or left of the consonants. Thai does not differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters and, in general, does not use spaces between different words. Individual words are written in a non-stop sequence, but with spaces inserted between sentences.
Traditional and modern Thai scriptsIt is often the case that the small circular stroke terminals are seen as one of the most characteristic features of Thai script; these are intended to enhance legibility and are a particular attribute of traditional Thai scripts. In recent years, however, increasing numbers of modern scripts have appeared that do not have these circular terminals and reading habits among Thais have begun to change. The font designer Anuthin Wongsunkakon, who, among other things, created Helvetica Thai, thus compares the circular terminals of Thai with the serifs in texts written using the Latin alphabet. It took several decades of habituation before the modified sans serif letter form was widely accepted. Completely new typographic horizons open up if the decorative terminals are eliminated from Thai script. It becomes possible, for example, to modify Latin sans serif fonts and convert them to a Thai equivalent. The Thai version of Helvetica, as a case in point, harmonises perfectly with its Latin original and its simplified, unadorned design conforms to modern Thai writing styles. This is something that is also to the benefit of global concerns, as it means that they can employ the same corporate typeface for all languages.
Traditional and modern Thai language texts:
above in grey is a text that uses traditional Thai characters; below in black is a text set in Helvetica Thai. .
You can find all font families that include Thai characters using our Font Search.
On the following page, you will find an interview with Anuthin Wongsunkakon, in which the designer of Helvetica Thai talks about various aspects of typography and typeface design.