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Weston Cook
Weston Cook

Fundamentals Of The Thai Language 2021

I really don't know. I bought that book and a cassette language course from AUA in Bangkok circa 1982. I studied it for about 5 years and then started going to the Philippines. I never returned to Thailand until about 4 years ago.

Fundamentals of the Thai Language

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Since the genesis of the Thai language is far more intimately connected with South Asian and East Asian languages, there are far fewer 'friends', false or otherwise, found between the languages of Thai and English than are found between Indo-European languages.

Thailand's official language is Thai as spoken and written in Central Thailand. Variants on this form are found as one moves from North to South in particular, where both vocabulary and tone values can vary.

An illustration of the role of tones in Thai to foreigners is 'mai mai mai mai mai', meaning 'New wood doesn't burn, does it?' Not, of course, a phrase often heard, but one which emphasises probably the major difficulty in learning Thai for speakers of non-tonal languages such as English. It can be very difficult for speakers of these languages to separate how they use intonation in their own tongue from how tones are used in Thai. It is the natural inclination of first language English speakers to use tones to denote stressed words which is the prime cause of confusion here. Conversely for first language Thai speakers it can be difficult to use stress consistently to denote stressed words in English, and it can also be difficult to convey such emotions as surprise or interest via intonation.

Thailand seems to share little of the rest of the world's fear of the negative impact English may have on its own, native tongue. English is seen very much as the language of business and the vast majority of Thais learn the language almost exclusively because of a desire to better their career prospects rather than because of any intrinsic interest in the first language English speaking world. English is also perceived by many Thais, particularly younger urban Thais, as being fashionable, or even, as one learner described it, 'cute'. Interest in England felt by the average Thai male is unlikely to extend past the national passion for English Premiership football, which has given rise to a number of 'Tinglish' phrases such as 'backsai', the term used to describe the football position of left back, 'sai' being the Thai word for 'left'.

Football is pronounced 'footbon' in Thai, which leads us to a frequent cause of mispronunciation of English words, namely how the positioning of a letter in a word can alter its pronunciation. The Thai equivalent of the letter 'l' is pronounced as an 'l' at the start of a word, but as an 'n' at the end of a word. The Thai language gives equal stress to all syllables, and so words ending with a schwa such as computer are likely to have an 'overemphasised' final syllable which can be represented as an 'err' in computerr. Also, an 's' sound at the end of a word is not pronounced in Thai which means that plural nouns are frequently pronounced as singular, and there is also mispronunciation of the third person form of verbs. The fact that Thai makes no grammatical distinction between first and third person verb forms makes accuracy here particularly difficult.

Whilst the tonal nature of Thai presents considerable challenges to speakers of atonal languages, its grammatical structure is considered by most to be fairly straightforward. The principal difference is that verb forms do not vary to show first or third person forms, or to show differences between, for example the past or future. First and third person forms are generally understood by their context or by specifying 'I' or 'He' and markers are added to indicate tense. For example, 'ja' for the future or 'ma' for the past. Thus, 'Tomorrow he's going to see a movie' in Thai is 'Prung ni Khao ja bai duu nang' or 'Tomorrow he [future marker] go see movie'. Thai also has no articles as illustrated by this sentence. For Thai speakers of English this makes grammar, particularly aspect, a very difficult part of the language to master and there is frequently an over reliance on the present simple tense used in conjunction with a time phrase.

Despite the completely different roots of the Thai and English languages, there are some words and phases which have been relatively recently borrowed from English. Hello has been adopted as the common way to answer the telephone, although the Thai version of this is more commonly a 'Hallo', with the second syllable extended and given a rising intonation. In a restaurant it is quite common to hear the phrase Cheque Bin, to ask for the bill. More rarely, a foreigner might be somewhat alarmed to encounter someone trying to attract their attention by saying Hey You! It's said that it was first picked up from GIs in the days of the Vietnam War. Second language speakers are almost certainly unaware that the phrase lacks the politeness which is so valued by many Thais in their first language.

There is relatively little concern in Thailand that the rise of the importance of English is threatening the existence of the Thai language. Thais are very proud of their cultural heritage and the fact that the country has never been colonised. English is seen more as a commercially desirable 'add on' to Thai than as any kind of threat. English is not often mixed with Thai in the way that one might hear, for example, Hindi mixed with English in India. Thais use English only to communicate with foreigners. The fact that the two languages are very clearly separated means that there are relatively few borrowings from English apart from the ubiquitous computer technology language. The greatest challenge encountered by Thais learning English and by English speakers learning Thai is to approach the language as something totally new, and to make sure the first language has as little influence as possible on how they use the second language.

Thai is the most spoken of over 60 languages of Thailand by both number of native and overall speakers. Over half of its vocabulary is derived from or borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit, Mon[5] and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language. Thai has a complex orthography and system of relational markers. Spoken Thai, depending on standard sociolinguistic factors such as age, gender, class, spatial proximity, and the urban/rural divide, is partly mutually intelligible with Lao, Isan, and some fellow Thai topolects. These languages are written with slightly different scripts, but are linguistically similar and effectively form a dialect continuum.[6]

Thai language is spoken by over 69 million people (2020). Moreover, most Thais in the northern and the northeastern (Isaan) parts of the country today are bilingual speakers of Central Thai and their respective regional dialects because (Central) Thai is the language of television, education, news reporting, and all forms of media.[7] A recent research found that the speakers of the Northern Thai language (or Kham Mueang) have become so few, as most people in northern Thailand now invariably speak Standard Thai, so that they are now using mostly Central Thai words and seasoning their speech only with "kham mueang" accent.[8] Standard Thai is based on the register of the educated classes by Central Thai people in the Metropolis.[9][10]

In addition to Central Thai, Thailand is home to other related Tai languages. Although some linguists classify these dialects as related but distinct languages, native speakers often identify them as regional variants or dialects of the "same" Thai language, or as "different kinds of Thai".[11] As a dominant language in all aspects of society in Thailand, Thai initially saw gradual and later widespread adoption as a second language among the country's minority ethnic groups from the mid-late Ayutthaya period onward.[12][13] Ethnic minorities today are predominantly bilingual, speaking Thai alongside their native language or dialect.

Standard Thai is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout Thailand. The standard is based on the dialect of the central Thai people, and it is written in the Thai script.

Verbs do not inflect. They do not change with person, tense, voice, mood, or number; nor are there any participles. The language being analytic and case-less, the relationship between subject, direct and indirect object is conveyed through word order and auxiliary verbs. Transitive verbs follow the pattern subject-verb-object.

Chinese-language influence was strong until the 13th century when the use of Chinese characters was abandoned, and replaced by Sanskrit and Pali scripts. However, the vocabulary of Thai retains many words borrowed from Middle Chinese.[34][35][36] 041b061a72


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