Hortatory Discourse: Pra Phayom's Homilies
Discourse Considerations in the Hortatory Speech of Phra Phayom
Introduction: At the outset, we want the users of this translation module to be aware that we are attempting to use a "lexical approach" to understanding how languages work in the real world. This approach is based on the observation that 1) speech is primary; writing is secondary with a radically different grammar and that 2) receptive skills, listening in particular, are given enhanced status. Furthermore, evidence from computational linguistics and discourse analysis will influence the syllabus content and sequence.
Course Content: The set of translation materials used in this module consists of three tape recorded, informal homilies of the popular Thai monk, Phra Phayom, known for his common touch and sense of humor. Because of his humble origins, his views and values are close to that of most Thais, which is an important consideration for the student of Thai culture. From events referred to in his talk, we know that the homilies were delivered in the early 90's. He follows in the footsteps of his teacher, the late Phra Putthathat (http://www.suanmokkh.org), one of the first Thai monks to preach in Standard Thai rather than simply recite ancient Pali scriptures.
In order to be able to understand and translate Phra Phayom's homilies, one needs to begin with the recognition of discourse types: narrative (story telling), procedural (how to do something), expository (explaining something) and hortatory (urging or giving advice about changes in thinking, emotions and behaviors). Three of Phra Payom's homilies (sermons) have been selected for study because they are exemplars of hortatory form of discourse, and also because they contain ordinary but colorful elements of spoken Thai not found in written homilies.
One cannot become fluent in a language without knowing spoken idioms and metaphors as well as written conventions. By listening to the audio files alongside the two (of three) transcribed text, the student can also get quite a good sense of how to "chunk" the text into phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs, and get a global picture of the entire discourse structure itself: the introduction, nucleus, conclusion and terminus. On a more general level, the listener can draw conclusions about Phra Payom's style and why he is "better than other monks" when it comes to delivering homilies.
Suffice it to say, more than half of the content his sermons are interspersed with brief stories from current events, such as a fire, or his own life experiences. Typical of Thai indirectness, mitigation of commands, and teaching through humor, these colorful insertions nevertheless convey a convincing moral message about Greed (the first homily) and Wealth (the second homily) and the Core of Buddhist Teaching (the third homily). All of these sermons are delivered in the context of Thai cultural values that include, but are not confined to strictly Buddhist values. An understanding the pragmatics of their delivery is critical to achieving a nuanced sociolinguistic competence in the language, a skill that cannot be gained by reading and translation in the traditional manner of focusing on written texts only.
The first two homilies were chosen as the subject of a 1993 unpublished M.A. thesis written by Kirk Roger Person at Payap University in Chiengmai, Thailand. His work consists of a Thai transcription of the cassette recording, his translation into English, and most importantly, his exemplary linguistic analysis. This course in translation will follow the text of the thesis, which is listed in the links below, along with links to Phra Payom's biography and the transcript of an interview with him. Kirk has generously given SEAsite permission to use his work here. We have taken his Thai text and inserted word divisions in it so that it can be studied with the common set of tools developed at SEAsite: Concordance Program, Word Frequency Program, Interlinear Program, and On-line Dictionary. Students, both on- and off-campus are invited to share their observations and attempts at translation by using the On-line Discussion Board. (See the link in the left-hand frame of this page.) -JFH
Pra Phayom's Homilies:
audio & bilingual text