| Point 1. Thai words and English
words. In learning English words we find that we frequently have to learn many
different forms of the same word before we can use it in different situations. These
differences of form carry with them a significant difference in meaning; thus: man, men,
man's, men's or see, saw, seen, seeing, or good, better, best. In Thai, however, we find
that very little use is made of changes such as this and that what changes there are
always perfectly regular. Hence a Thai word like kin can mean 'eat, eats,
eating, ate, eaten, to eat.' In the same way,phǒm
can mean 'I, me,my' (m.) and thù:k can mean
'right (correct), to be right, am right, is right, are right, etc., or correctly.'
The fact that a single word can correspond to so many different things in English may cause you to feel at first that Thai is not as definite and precise as English. But as you progress in your understanding of the language, you will notice that whenever it is necessary to be precise about number or tense, Thai can be precise, but that when such precision is unnecessary Thai is not bound, as English is, to be precise about it. Thus the meaning content of such a phrase as 'Horses like to run' is not different from that of the phrase 'A horse likes to run.' The fact that English has two ways of saying what amounts to the same thing is based upon the necessity of expressing singular and plural number in English. In Thai this type of number distinction is not compulsory; therefore the two English expressions given above have only one corresponding expression in Thai, namely, má: chơp wîŋ (má: 'horse, horses'; chơp 'like, likes, liked, to like'; wîŋ 'run, runs, ran, to run').
| Point 2. Men's and women's speech. In
the preceding paragraph we noted that English insists on making distinctions in number and
tense which are not compulsory in Thai. In its turn we find that Thai makes certain
distincitons of other types which are not compulsory in English. One of these distinctions
is that in Thai certain words are used by men while others, of corresponding meaning, are
used by women. You have already seen examples of this in Useful Words and Phrases. Thus a
man say phǒm 'I' while a woman says
dichǎn. The polite words frequently used at the end of sentences also
have different forms for men and women, so that khráp
is used by men while the words khâ' (in statements) or
khá' (in questions) are used by women.
khráp (m.) and
(w.) used for 'yes' are merely a special usage of these polite words.
The two pronouns and the set of polite words just given are the most important words showing a difference between the speech of men and that of women. Once these words are learned there is little more to be learned in this field. However, because these words are of very frequent occurence, the speech of women sounds more different from that of men than such a small number of words would at first indicate.
| Point 3.
Compound words. Some words are composed of two smaller words, each of which has a
separate meaning. Thus in English we have many words like food-store, mailman, bookkeeper,
bluebird, which contain two smaller words put together to form a new word. Words of this
kind are called compound words.
Thai also has many compound words. One which you have already learned is rá:n'á:hǎ:n 'restaurant' from rá:n 'store' plus 'á:hǎ:n 'food'. Except for the fact that the word-order is different, the Thai word rá:n'á:hǎ:n is built up just like the English word food-store. However, the Thai word refers to a store which sells food that is prepared and eaten on the premises, whereas the English word usually refers to a store that sells food to be taken out and prepared elsewhere. This example, then, contains a little warning. Take care not to jump to the conclusion that two Thai words put together to form a compound word will have exactly the same meaning as the corresponding English words put together in a compound. Sometimes this may be the case, but often it isn't.
There is one important difference between English compounds and Thai compounds. In English the modifying word comes first and the main word comes second, e.g., in food-store the word food modifies the word store. In Thai, on the other hand, the word-order is reversed so that the main word comes first and the modifying word comes second, e.g., in rá:n'á:hǎ:n the word ?áahǎan modifies rá:n.
| Point 4. Thai numbers. In the column to the left below
the Thai numbers up to ten are listed, and in the column to the right the Thai numbers
from eleven to nineteen are given.
It is easy to see that the numbers from
twelve to nineteen are formed by simple addition. Thus the word
sìp 'ten' plus the
word sơ:ŋ 'two' gives
sìpsơ:ŋ 'twelve.' You will notice that exactly the same device is used to
form the rest of the numbers up to and including nineteen. You will also notice that
sìp'èt 'eleven' is formed just like the the numbers from twelve to nineteen except for
one thing: the word nỳŋ is replaced by the word
'èt, which also means 'one', and the word for 'eleven' is therefore
sìp'èt. Unlike the word for 'eleven' is therefore
sìp'èt. Unlike the word nỳŋ, the word
'èt is never used by itself; instead, it is always combined with
some other number.
The process employed in forming the tens
from thirty to ninety is clearly multiplication. Thus
'three' multiplied by sìp 'ten' gives sǎ:msìp 'thirty,' and exactly the same device is used to form the rest of the tens from
forty up to and including ninety. The word yî:ìp 'twenty' differs from the other tens in that
it does not contain the ordinary word for two, which is sơ:ŋ. Instead, sơ:ŋ is replaced by the word yî:, which also means 'two,' and the word for twenty is therefore jî:sìp. Note carefully, however, that yî: is never
used by itself the way sơ:ŋ is; instead yî: is used only in combination with some other
The remaining Thai numbers all the way up to ninety-nine are formed in the same manner.