Keyboard Support

Contact and Search Homepage

Header bottom

On this page

Lao Phonetic Keyboard Help

This package includes a phonetic-input keyboard, for entering Lao characters according to the sounds of the letters on an English keyboard, and a selection of Lao OpenType (Unicode) fonts, optimized for use on OS X, but also fully compatible with Windows, iOS and most other platforms.

The keyboard in this package does not insert hidden break codes, since most OS X applications (as well as recent versions of Microsoft Office on Windows) automatically wrap Lao text correctly at word boundaries. (Another Lao keyboard package, Lao Rapid 2008, is available for older systems that inserts hidden break codes at syllable boundaries for text wrapping.)

Phonetic ("Romanized") entry of Lao Text

Users who are unfamiliar with the Lao typewriter layout and have any standard, latin-alphabet, keyboard (for example, English or French), will often find it easier to enter Lao text using a phonetic ("romanized") input method, especially where Lao keyboard stickers are unavailable. With phonetic input, you can type "kan" for ກັນ, "tham" for ທຳ, "pheuan1" for ເພື່ອນ, etc., or "hkian phaa saa laaw boh1 nyaak!" for ຂຽນພາສາລາວບໍ່ຍາກ!

Phonetic Entry Principles

Many suggestions have been made for romanizing Lao text, and there is no perfect solution, since it is not possible to represent Lao phonetics exactly in English. The phonetic input approach adopted is based on following principles:

  • The convention should be systematic and intuitive for English speakers as much as possible.
  • It should be possible to enter most Lao words using only lower-case letters, to facilitate text entry.
  • Syllable-final consonants can be entered either phonetically or as written, so type -d or -t for -ດ, -b or -p for -ບ, and -y for -ຍ.
  • For syllables with tone marks, the number (1 to 4) should be typed after the keys for the consonant and vowel sequence, which will add the tone mark to the initial consonant and mark the syllable as complete. For syllables without a tone mark, the space bar should be pressed instead to mark the syllable as complete. Pressing the space bar again, or in any other context, will insert a space character in the usual way.
  • Punctuation and symbol keys output the character shown on the key, except for the digits 1 to 4 when entered to indicate a tone mark in a Lao syllable (as noted above), and % when entered immediately after a Lao consonant (see below).
  • Phonetic transcription follows the system keyboard in use, not the physical layout. So you can type "kan" with either a QWERTY (English layout) or an AZERTY (French layout) keyboard to get ກັນ.

Special conventions

  • When % is typed immediately after a Lao consonant, the THANTHAKHAT symbol (U+0ECC) will be placed over that consonant. This is mainly useful for loan words, so for example, type mail% for ໄມ​ລ໌​ ("mile").
  • Most "long" vowels (for example ອາ ເອ ອີ ໂອ ອູ ອື ແອ) vowels are entered either by repeating the letter used for the corresponding "short" vowel, or by using the upper-case (shifted) letter, if you prefer.
  • Right Alt with any numeral key (in the top row) will output the Lao numerals ໐,໑,໒...໙ instead of standard numerals 0,1,2,...9. Right Alt + ` (accent or backquote) gives the Lao Kip symbol , and Right Alt + = (equals sign) gives the Euro symbol (€).

Entering Lao Consonants Phonetically

The letter (or letters) to type for each Lao consonant is shown in the following table. Alternate key sequences are shown in parentheses after the default convention.

LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic
k hk (K) kh
d (t*) t ht (T) th
b (p*) p hp (P) ph
ng (g) ຫງhng (G) ny (y*) ຫຍhny (Y)
j (c,ch) s (S) x
n hn (N) ຫນnh
m hm (M) ຫມmh
f hf (F)
l ຫຼhl (L) ຫລlh
r ຫຣhr rr
​ວv (w) ຫວhw (W) ຮວhv y
(**) h hh (H)

* Type ny to enter the Lao letter at the start of a syllable, or y to add to the end of a syllable. Either t or d can be used to enter at the end of a syllable, and similarly, either p or b will appear as .

**For any syllable that starts with a vowel, the character will be inserted automatically when the vowel character is typed. If it is ever necessary to insert separately, just type any vowel letter, then press backspace to delete the Lao vowel character, leaving .

Entering Lao Vowels, Tones and Special Symbols

In the following table, each vowel is shown in a syllable, using and as place-holders for the initial and final consonants.

LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic LaoPhonetic
ກະka ເກkee ເກືອkeua ກົນkon ເກະke
ກັນkan ແກະkea (kz) ແກັນkean (kzn) ກັອນko`n ເກຶອkeua`
ກາkaa ແກkae​ (kZ) ກົວະkua` ກໍkoh ກ່າ​kaa1
ກິki ໂກະko` ກົວkua ກວນkuan ກ້າ​kaa2
ກີkii (kI) ໂກkoo (kO) ໄກkai ເກັຍkia` ກ໊າ​kaa3
ກຶkue (kq) ເກາະko ໃກkay ​ເກຍkia ກ໋າ​kaa4
ກືkeu (kqq,kQ) ກໍkoh ເກົາkao ກຽນkian ກາ​ສ໌​kaas%
ກຸku ເກິkoe ກຳkam ກັຍkay` R
ກູkuu ເກີker ເກັນken ກັມkam` X

* The digits 1-4 and % only translate to tone marks at the end of a syllable. Otherwise, they appear as digits and percent as usual.

For easier use, the accent key alternates between some vowels, for example:

  • koເກາະ + `ໂກະ + `ເກາະ

Many old spelling conventions can also be entered, by using the accent key to change between conventions:

  • mia ເມຍ + `ເມັຍ + `ເມັຍະ + `ເມັຽ + `ເມຍ

or by using J to enter as a final semi-vowel:

  • dooyໂດຍ
  • dooJໂດຽ

You can also use the accent key to cycle through currency symbols:

  • $ + ` + ` + `£ + `¥ + `$

Copyright 2015-2022 Dr John M Durdin,

All Documentation Versions