Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! Eye Think Therefore Eye Am

"Ten mouths saying aren't equal to one eye seeing"

This basically means "you shouldn't believe what you hear from other people until to see it with your own eyes."

"Ten mouths" represent people's talking, and "one eye" represents your own seeing. It can also mean "you have to see it to believe it"

This proverb is found in other Tai languages as well. In particular, it can be found in Lao and Northern Thai.

Anyway, since I want to be a professional linguist, the year 2012 has been the greatest year of my entire life. I have always dreamed of finishing my BA and get into a grad school in linguistics. This year, I graduated from UCLA and I am now attending USC doing a doctoral program in linguistics.

I want to thank many people who had helped me with this. I want to thank my professors, TAs, and friends who had helped me. I want to thank Mom and Dad and my sister. I want to thank the linguistics department at USC for giving me the opportunity to achieve my goals. I promise I won't fail you.

And finally, I want to thank all my subscribers and viewers. If it weren't for you guys, I wouldn't be making videos. Thank you so much for your support.

Thank you everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Say Thai Dishes Correctly and Look Dope

"Tom Yum Gangnam style!" Although many do not, some Thai people care about the way you pronounce the names of the dishes. This video teaches you how to say some popular Thai dishes.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thai, Lao, and other SW Tais: Animal Names

In this video, you'll get to learn some animal names in some Southwestern Tai languages including Thai, Lao, Northern Thai, Shan, and Tai Lue. The words chosen here only differ in tones. Therefore, you will only learn words that are cognates.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shan Phrases: Greetings

Today, let's learn some basic Shan phrases.
1. mày sǔng khaa = hello
mày = to be new
sǔng = to be high, to  be tall
mày sǔng = Good day! Hello! Lit. "(may you be) renewed and prosperous" (cf. Thai mài.sǔung ใหม่สูง)
khaa = polite particle. Lit. "slave, servant" Antonym of "English sir, ma'am" So, instead of saying "good day, sir" you say "good day, servant" by addressing yourself as "servant". In other words, by putting yourself down, you are automatically lifting the person you're addressing up. This is politeness system is very common among SW Tai languages. Furthermore, it cognates with Thai khâa (ข้า), cf. modern day khâ (ค่ะ) for women, but unlike Thai, it can be used with both genders. And it also cognates in use with (archaic royal) Lao khȁa.nâui (ຂ້ານ້ອຍ), e.g. sa.bàai.dìi.kha.nâui (ສະບາຍດີຂ້ານ້ອຍ). Since it is a polite particle, it is often dropped when speaking informally.


mày sǔng khaa means "Good day, sir/ma'am."

2. yù lǐ khaa háa = how are you?
= to stay, to remain
= to be good, to be nice (cf. Thai dii ดี)
yù lǐ = to be well, to be healthy Lit. "live well" (cf. Thai yùu.dii อยู่ดี)
khaa = polite particle (see (1))
háa = question particle. Somewhat cognates is use with Thai rěu (หรือ, ฤๅ) but probably direct cognates with Lue haa.

háa khaa = question word combined with polite particle. The order of the words is the same as that in Thai: rěu.khá (หรือค่ะ, หรือเจ้าข้า)


khaa háa = question word combined with polite particle. This order of the words is the same as that in (archaic royal) Lao: kha.nâui.lěu (ຂ້ານ້ອຍຫຼື).

yù lǐ khaa háa = "Are (you, sir/ma'am) well?" (cf. Thai อยู่ดีหรือค่ะ, Lao ຢູ່ດີຂ້ານ້ອຍຫຼື)

3. sǔ caw yù lǐ khaa háa = how are you?
= you (plural). When used to address one person, it is formal (which is similar to French vous). (cf. Lao sǔu ສູ)
caw = lord, master. (cf. Thai câw เจ้า, Lao câw ເຈົ້າ)
sǔ caw = you (polite) Lit. "you lord/lady"  (cf. Old Thai sǔu.câw สูเจ้า)

sǔ caw yù lǐ khaa háa = "Are you, sir/ma'am well?"

4 yù lǐ khaa = I am fine
yù lǐ = to be well, to be healthy Lit. "live well" (cf. Thai yùu.dii อยู่ดี)
 = continuing aspect marker. Progressive aspect marker. (cf. Thai yùu อยู่)

yù lǐ yù = (I) am well

yù lǐ  khaa = (I) am well (polite). (cf. Thai yùu.dii.yùu.khâa อยู่ดีอยู่ค่ะ, archaic royal Lao yuu.dìi.yuu.kha.nâui ຢູ່ດີຢູ່ຂ້ານ້ອຍ)

5 kǎw khaa yù lǐ yù khaa = I am fine (polite)
kǎw = I; me (very informal). This cognates with Thai kuu (กู) and Lao kùu (ກູ).
khaa = slave, servant (see (1))
kǎw khaa = I the servant (an expression to show politeness)
yù lǐ  khaa = (I) am well (polite).

kǎw khaa yù lǐ yù khaa = I am well (polite).


khaa yù lǐ yù khaa = I am well (polite). kǎw can be omitted. The first khaa is used as a pronoun. The second khaa is used as a polite particle. (cf. Thai khâa.yùu.dii.yùu.khâa ข้าอยู่ดีอยู่ค่ะ)

6 sǔ caw kau yù lǐ nǎu = you are also fine?
sǔ caw = you (polite) Lit. "you lord/lady"  (cf. Old Thai sǔu.câw สูเจ้า)
kau = also; placed before verbs. (cf. Thai kâu ก็, Lao kau ກໍ)
yù lǐ = to be well, to be healthy Lit. "live well" (cf. Thai yùu.dii อยู่ดี)
nǎu = question word "isn't it?" (cf. Thai náu เนาะ)

sǔ caw kau yù lǐ nǎu = "You are also well, right?"

7 au yù lǐ khaa = yes, I am fine
au = yes (polite) (cf. Thai ôe เอ้อ)
yù lǐ  khaa = (I) am well (polite). (cf. Thai yùu.dii.yùu.khâa อยู่ดีอยู่ค่ะ, archaic royal Lao yuu.dìi.yuu.kha.nâui ຢູ່ດີຢູ່ຂ້ານ້ອຍ)

au yù lǐ  khaa = "Yes, (I) am well (polite).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learn Dai Lue via Music: "My Body Is Far, but My Heart Is Near"

Thai transliteration of Tham script 
ยามเมื่อเข้าเขียว เต็มทุ่งนา

* นางนี้ได้พรากมาอยู่ไกล


ซ้ำ (*)

English translation (archaized)
when the rice was green, filling up the paddy fields
I left the city
Staying in a far and foreign land
I didn't get to see the faces of Mom and Dad
and Auntie and Uncle
and also all of my friends
and thee, my lover

* As for me, I have left to live faraway
I want thee, my good man
To not forget me
When it reaches the sixth month
I will return to visit
Then we will hold each other's hands
Go out on the celebration day

O thou, O thou
Art thou still well?
Although I am afar
My body is afar, but my heart is near
Wherever thou art
My heart stays there

Repeat (*)

Phonetic transcription

yaam4 moe5 xaw3 xaew1 tim1 tung5 naa4
naang4 dai3 phaak5 moeng4 pai1
yu2 moeng4 kai1 taang2 daaw3
baw2 dai3 han1 naa3 pau5 lae5 mae5
lae5 ii2 naa6 pau5 aaw1
kap1 tang4 sew2 tang4 laai1
lae5 aai3 baaw2 cu6 hak5

* naang4 ni6 dai3 phaak5 maa4 yu2 kai1
xau1 heu3 caai4 kun4 dii1
yaa2 mii4 cai1 leum4 naang4
theung1 xaw3 su2 doen1 hok1 tai4 maa4
naung6 kaui5 pauk5 maa4 haa1
yaam4 nan6 haw4 kaui5 cung1 xaen1 kan1
aew2 wan4 paui4

caai4 hoei1 caai4
caai4 yang4 yu2 di1 wai6 kaa4
naang4 ni6 nang2 yu2 kai1 paan1 dai1
to1 yu2 kai1 cai1 yu2 kai3
caai4 yu2 ti4 nai1
cai1 naang4 tit1 yu2 caum4 han3

repeat (*)

Lao transliteration
ຍາມເມື່ອເຂົ້າຂຽວ ເຕັມທົ່ງນາ

* ນາງນີ້ໄດ້ພາກມາຢູ່ໄກ

ຊ້ຳ (*)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Original Place of the Tais Probably Wasn't next to a Sea

Image by: Bob Andres

Looking at vocabulary of a language can tell us a lot about the migration of its speakers in the past. Many scholars have proposed that Tai speaking peoples are probably from what is now Yunnan, China. This place is landlocked though it has many rivers. Thus, it is no surprise that many Tai languages do not have native words for sea creatures and other words related to sea. Moreover, present day Thailand is located next to large body of water. This suggests that Tai people(s) who founded present day Thailand had to learn new words related to sea from the locals. Indeed from examining words in Southwestern Tai languages, I have found a lot of loanwords. Here are some:

First, Tai languages do not seem to have a native word for "sea". The Thai and Lao words for sea are ทะเล tha.le: and ທະເລ (ทะเล) tha.lé: respectively, which are borrowed from Khmer tʊənlee meaning "river." The Shan word for "sea" is ပၢင်ႇလၢႆႇ (ป่างหล่าย) pàang.làai which is borrowed from Burmese ပင်လယ် pin.le (written pang.lai). And the Tai Dam word for "sea" is nɔ̌ng.lǔang (หนองหลวง), which literally means "great lake or great pond."

Next, it does not seem like Tai languages have a native word for "shark". The Thai and Lao words for shark are ฉลาม cha.lǎam and ສະຫຼາມ (สลาม) sa.lǎam respectively, which are borrowed from Khmer claam. The Shan word for "shark" is ပႃငမၢၼ်း (ปลาง้ามาน) pǎa.ngâ.máan which is borrowed from Burmese ငါးမန်း ngaman:.

Finally, Tai languages do not seem to have a common word for "porpoise". The Thai and Lao word for "porpoise" or "dolphin" is โลมา lo:.maa and ໂລມາ (โลมา) ló:.máa respectively, which seem to be from a Malay language, cf. Malay lumba-lumba. Lao also has other words for "dolphin": ໝູທະເລ (หมูทะเล) mǔu.tha.lé: "sea pig" (cf. Chinese), ປາເດິນຟິນ (ปลาเดินฟิน) pàa.də̀n.fín possibly from English, and ປາຂ່າ (ปลาข่า) pàa.khaa. I do not know where the last one is from. In Shan, the word for "dolphin" is လမ်းၽႅင်ႇ (ลำแผ่ง) lám.phɛ̀ng  and ပႃၶႃး (ปลาฅา) pǎa.kháa. The former is borrowed from Burmese လင်းပိုင် lin:pain (spelled lang:paing), and the latter might be from the same source as that of Lao.

Thus, the fact that these SW languages lack native words related to sea may suggest that Tai people's original homeland was not near a sea.

"Walk" in SW Tai Languages Are Actually Related

By merely looking at the words for "to walk" across different Tai languages, one may conclude that they are different. The word for "to walk" in Northern Thai is เทียว (เตียว) tiaw, in Thai it is เดิน dəən, in Lao it is ຍ່າງ (ย่าง) nyaang, and in Shan it is တဵဝ်း téw or ပႆ pǎi. However, if we examine these words more closely, we will know that they are all related.

The word for "to walk" in one language may mean something else related to walking in another language. The word dəən in Thai is an exception since it comes from Khmer daə (spelled dər) "to walk." Regardless, Northern Thai tiaw and Shan tew are related to Thai เที่ยว thîaw and Lao ທ່ຽວ thiaw which mean "to travel, to visit". The word nyaang in Lao is related to Shan ယၢင်ႈ  yaang and Thai and Northern Thai ย่าง  yâang and nyâang respectively which  mean "to take a step." The word pǎi in Shan is related to Thai and Northern Thai ไป pai and to Lao ໄປ pài which mean "to go." Thus, although a word in a Tai language can mean "to walk", it may mean something else in other Tai languages such as "to travel", "to take a step", or "to go"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Literal Meanings of "Thank You"

Looking at the components of "thank you" in different languages may tell us something about different cultures.  In particular, we might learn how people express gratitude by analyzing how the phrase "thank you" in their language is formed.

While I do not quite understand "thank you" in Thai and Lao, I think I understand "thank you" in other Southwestern Tai languages better.

The word for "thank you" in Lao is ຂອບໃຈ (ขอบใจkhɔ̏ɔp.cài. In Thai, it is ขอบใจ khɔ̀ɔp.cai (cf. Lao ຂອບໃຈ) and more politely ขอบคุณ khɔ̀ɔp.khun. The latter is probably not as traditional since it contains an Indic loan: คุณ guṇa; so, I will leave this one out. The literal meaning of ขอบใจ in both languages is "the brim of heart", which quite frankly is really puzzling to me. In particular, I do not know how this is being used as "thank you". Unless perhaps, it does not mean "brim of heart" at all. Or maybe it is too poetic beyond my comprehension. Or maybe when a speaker says "the brim of heart", he is trying to say that his heart is full to the brim. Or perhaps he is trying to show the size of his heart by mentioning the brim? Oh boy, I am over-analyzing this. (If you know the answer, please let me know.)

On other hand, the literal meaning of "thank you" in some other Tai languages is not as puzzling (to me at least); it is quite poetic actually. In Northern Thai and Tai Lue, "thank you" is ยินดี nyin.dii or yin.dii,  which means "welcome" in Thai and Lao. "Thank you" in these two languages literally means "(I) feel good", composing of ยิน "to feel" and ดี "good". In Shan, it is ငိၼ်းၸူမ်း ngín.cóm, which cognates with Thai ยินชม yin.chom. The literal meaning of Shan "thank you" is "(I) feel pleased, glad in the heart", composing of ngín "to feel" and cóm "to be pleased, to be glad in the heart". Thus, in these languages, to express gratitude, one says "I feel good, or I feel pleased".

So, the next time someone does something nice for you, do not forget to say "I feel good!" and give them a big smile. :D

Anyway, to me "I feel good/pleased" makes a lot more sense than "brim of heart". What do you all think?

Words for Animals Not Native to Tai Lands: The Giraffe

When an animal from a foreign land is introduced to a new country, the people native to the new land will have to give it a name in their language. They have two options: they will either have to use the same word that the people who are bringing it there are already using, or they will have to come up with a new name. From analyzing three Southwestern Tai languages namely, Thai, Lao, and Shan, I found that these languages have gone different paths in choosing new names for foreign animals. 

Today we are looking at the giraffe, the long necked animal native to Africa.

Photo:Luca Galuzzi -

In Thai, the word is ยีราฟ yii.ráap (spelled yii.raaf), Lao ກວາງຄໍຍາວ (กวางคอยาว) kwàaŋ.kʰɔ́ɔ.ɲáaw "long necked deer" or ມ້າລາຍຄໍຍາວ (ม้าลายคอยาว) mâa.láai.kʰɔ́ɔ.ɲáaw "long necked zebra", and Shan ၵလႃးဢုၵ်ႉၶေႃးယၢဝ်း  (กลาอุ้กคอยาว, กุลาอูฐคอยาว) "long necked camel". 

Apparently, the Thai word is a direct loanword possibly from English, whereas Lao and Shan use a compound. Lao and Shan seem to have translated "giraffe" as a "long necked" animal that is either a deer, a zebra, or a camel". Interestingly, the Chinese word for giraffe is 长颈鹿 chángjǐnglù which literally means "long-necked deer". So, it seems like the Laos and the Shans may have got the idea from the Chinese. (Cf. Vietnamese hươu cao cổ "long necked deer".)

What is interesting to me is the fact that the Shans use "camel" instead of "deer". The Latin word for giraffe is camelopardalis which literally means "camel leopard". The Burmese word is သစ်ကုလားအုတ် thi' kalaou' "leopard camel". Apparently, the Burmese seem to have calqued the word from LatinSo the question that I have now is: Did the Shans get "camel" from Latin, or did they get it from Burmese? What we seem to know from analyzing these words is that apparently the Shans were both influenced by Chinese and/or Lao and Burmese. In particular, they seem to have got "camel" from Latin possibly via Burmese, and the construction "long necked + (animal)" from either Chinese or Lao (who themselves may have got it from the Chinese).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nature, Weather, & Elements: Vocabulary from SW Tai languages

This post is dedicated to native Tai words. Thus, Indic or Khmer loanwords found in Thai and Lao, such as เมฆ megha, พายุ vaayu, หิมะ himah, เพลิง (Kh.) etc., are largely omitted.

air - ลม (wind) lom.A
beach - หาด haat
cloud - ฝ้า faa.C
copper - ทอง thɔɔŋ.A
dew - น้ำค้าง 
dry season - หน้าแล้ง
dust - ฝุ่น fun.B
earth - ดิน (soil) ʔdin.A , แผ่นดิน, หล้า hlaa.C
fire - ไฟ vai.A
fog - หมอก hmɔɔk
forest - ป่า paa.B, เถื่อน thɯɯn.B
fruit - หมากไม้ 
gold - ฅำ χam.A
hail - เห็บ hep
hill - ดอย ʔdɔɔi.A
iron - เหล็ก hlek
leaf - ใบ ʔbai.A
light - แสง sɛɛŋ.A
mine - เหมือง hmɯəŋ.A
moon - เดือน ʔdɯən.A
ore - แร่ rɛɛ.B
rain - ฝน fon.A
rainy season - หน้าฝน
rain - เข้า (> Th. ข้าว) khau.C
ravine - ห้วย huai.C
rice field - นา naa.A
river - แม่น้ำ
rock - หิน hin.A
sand - ทราย saai.A
sea - หนองใหญ่, หนองน้ำใหญ่
season - คราว graau.A, หน้า hnaa.C
shower - ห่า haa.B
silver - เงิน ŋən.A
sky - ฟ้า vaa.C
snow - เหมือย hmɯəi.A 
sound - เสียง siaŋ.A
star - ดาว ʔdaau.A
storm - ลมใหญ่ 
summer - หน้าร้อน
sun - ตาวัน ("eye of day")
sunlight - แดด ʔdɛɛt
thunder - ฟ้าร้อง, ฟ้าผ่า
tree - ต้นไม้, กกไม้
vegetable - ผัก phak
water - น้ำ nam.C
weather - ทางฟ้า
winter - หน้าหนาว, หน้ากัด
wood - ไม้ mai.C

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shan Tale: Nang Kinnari

     This story was taken from Naai Châang Plùuk Rüan (link) with the intent to share the Shan language and culture with those who do not speak Thai. Since most people do not have Shan unicode font, I will use Thai transliteration of the Shan text from this blog. For those who are interested in reading the original Shan text, please click on the link above.

     Kinnari f. (or Kinnara m.) is a mythical creature originated from Buddhist/Hindu mythology. In Southeast Asia, it is typically half-human and half-bird. This mythical creature is well-known across many nations in Southeast Asia. 

นางกินนรี (Thai transliteration of Shan)
นางกินนรี (Thai translation)
Naang Kinnari (English translation)

นางกินนรีและขุนกินนร เขาสองตัวผัวเมียนั้น ก้าเสและร้องความม่วนเส้ออยู่ในเถื่อน.
นางกินนรีและขุนกินนร เขาสองตัวผัวเมียนั้น ฟ้อนรำและร้องเพลงสนุกสนานอยู่ในป่า.
Naang Kinnari and Khun Kinnara, the two of them husband and wife, were dancing and singing happily in the woods.

ปู่ล่าเนื้อค้อหนึ่ง กว่าร่างเสียติได้ เอากว่ารอดในเวียงซากปันเจ้าหอฅำ.
นายพรานคนหนึ่ง ไปวางกับดักแล้วจับได้ เอาไปถึงในเวียงถวายให้เจ้าแผ่นดิน.
A hunter set up a trap and caught them. He gave them to the king.

เจ้าหอฅำชมหน่า ใช้เขาร้องความแหน.
เจ้าแผ่นดินดีใจมาก ใช้เขาร้องเพลงให้ดู.
The king was very content. He ordered them to sing for him.

ใช้เขาก้าแหน เขาผัวเมียก็อยู่ไว้เอย็นเอย็น(เย็นๆ).
ใช้เขาฟ้อนให้ดู เขาผัวเมียก็อยู่นิ่งเฉย.
He ordered them to dance for him, but they, husband and wife, stayed unresponsive.

ใช้วันหนึ่งอ่ำก้า ใช้สองวันก็อ่ำก้า ใช้สามวันเต็มเต็มก็ ความก็อ่ำร้องแหน.
ใช้วันหนึ่งบ่ฟ้อน ใช้สองวันก็บ่ฟ้อน ใช้สามวันเต็มเต็มก็ เพลงก็บ่ร้องให้ฟัง.
He ordered them the first day; they would not dance. He ordered them the second day; they would not dance either. He ordered them the third full day; they would not sing for him either.

They would not dance for him either.

ขุนหอฅำใจดำหน่า ใช้เอากว่าแหมตายแพด.
เจ้าแผ่นดินโกรธมาก ใช้เอาไปฆ่าตายทิ้ง.
The king was really angry. He ordered for them to be killed.

Naang Kinnari then said to the King:

"อย่าแหมเสียคำน่อ. พอเราข้าก้าแหน ร้องความแหนจึง ค้อว่าดีเตพา ค้อว่าช้าเตมี.
"อย่าฆ่าเสียเถิดเจ้าข้า. หากพวกเราฟ้อนให้ดู ร้องเพลงให้ฟังแล้ว คนว่าดีก็มี คนว่าเลวก็มี.
"Do not kill us please, Your Highness. If we dance and sing, some will be pleased and some will not.

Thus, we do not say anything, Your Highness."

เมื่อเดียวไน้แท้ สบดีความงาม ถึงยามจั่งลาด เหมือนหนั่งความกับถูก.
บัดเดียวนี้แท้ ปากดีคำงาม ถึงเวลาเลยพูด เหมือนดั่งคำพังเพย.
Now, their mouths are beautiful, and so are their words; when it is time to speak, they speak correctly. It is like aphoristic sayings.

"I, your servant, am telling Your Highness."

เมื่อยามนั้น เจ้าหอฅำว้นไว้.
เมื่อยามนั้น เจ้าแผ่นดินคิดไว้.
Then, the king kept on thinking.

"ใช่แท้ เออ ความไน้. พอเป็นไหนจึง ปู่ล่าเนื้อ เหย.
"ใช่แท้ เอ้อ คำพูดนี้. หากเป็นเช่นนี้แล้ว นายพราน เอ๋ย.
"'Tis true. Yes, indeed. Their words are true. If this is so then.. O Hunter!

ที่อยู่เก่าเขาที่ใมเอามานั้นฅืนกว่าปล่อยดีดีท้า. ข้อปงมีหนั่งไหนเย้า."
ที่อยู่เก่าเขาที่มึงเอามานั้น ฅืนไปปล่อยดีดีเสีย. คำสั่งมีดั่งนี้ล่ะ."
Their original place which thou hast taken them from. Thou shalt return them there in peace. That is an order."

English translation by Alif Silpachai

Shan Naming Convention

     The Shan naming convention is interesting. Traditionally, Shan parents name their kids using monosyllabic words, ie. words that have only one syllable. A name is given based on a child's gender and the order he/she's in. For example, if a child is a third son, he will be named "saam", whereas if a child is a third daughter, she will be named "aam".  Thus, the names can be very informative.

Below is the traditional Shan naming convention for both genders:

(Not in IPA: <,> = low tone 21, <;> mid-falling tone 31, <:> high tone 55, <.> falling tone 51, and rising tone 24.)

Naming Convention for girls
1st daughter - ye; or öi; (cf. Lao, N. Thai เอื้อย ö̂öi)
2nd daughter - i, (cf. yîi "two")
3rd daughter -  aam (cf. sǎam "three")
4th daughter - aai, (cf, sài "four")
5th daughter - ou (cf. ngôu "five")
6th daughter - ok: (cf. lók "six")
7th daughter - et: (cf. cét "seven")

Naming Convention for boys
1st son - aai; (cf. Lao, N. Thai อ้าย âai ) or luang ("great, big") 
2nd son - yi; ("two")
3rd son -  saam ("three")
4th son - sai, ("four")
5th son - ngo; ("five")
6th son - luuk; ("six")
7th son - tsep: ("seven")

Reference accessed 12/11/2012