Interpreting Four-Word Phrases and Related Patterns in Lao Discourse

Carol J. Compton, Ph.D.
Independent Scholar
Madison, Wisconsin



In earlier work on four-word phrases in Lao (such as yuu4 dii2 mii3 hEEN333 ‘be well’ or khii5 long1 khii5 lyym3  ‘absent-minded’), I looked at internal rhyme, repetition and semantic similarities within a four-word phrase itself. In this paper I focus on the use of four-word phrases in larger contexts, that is in written discourse. I compare the types, frequency, distribution and use of the four-word phrases found in short stories, poetry and textbooks. Comparisons from this corpus of data are made as to the frequency and variety in types of four-word phrases and related patterns in written Lao and their uses in the discourse structure . This research suggests the need to investigate the role of four-word phrases and related patterns as an integral part of Lao syntax. Analysis of the role of four-word phrases and related patterns by linguists, language teachers and translators of literature could be productive in expanding our knowledge of aspects of Lao discourse and poetics and would have value for exploring discourse structures and poetics in other Tai languages as well.