Thursday, January 17, 2013

Stories behind Polite Endings in Thai, Lao, N. Thai, Shan, and Tai Lue

Summary

  • Traditionally to be polite when speaking Tai languages, one must lift up the people he is talking to. This process can be achieved via two processes: either put himself down or lift the listeners up (or both).
  • Thus, in many Tai languages, the first person personal pronoun is "servant, slave", while the second person personal pronoun is "lord, master". 
  • In addition to using "servant" and "lord" as personal pronouns, to show politeness in many Southwestern Tai languages, "servant" or "lord" can also be used in two contexts: to end sentences and to say "yes".
  • In Thai "servant" is used to end sentences and to say "yes" by women. Men use "at your service" instead. 
  • In Lao "little servant" is traditionally used to end sentences and to say "yes". However, in present day Laos, the use of this word in this fashion is really rare. Thus, "little servant" is not used to end sentences anymore by most people, and "lord" is used to say "yes" instead. 
  • In Northern Thai, traditionally men and women end their sentences and say "yes" with "lord". However, due to the influence of Thai, men now use "at your service" instead.
  • Note: unlike modern Lao, "lord" is only used by women in Northern Thai.
  • In Shan, unlike Thai, both men and women use "servant" to end sentences and to say "yes".
  • In Tai Lue, unlike other Southwestern Tai languages mentioned above, neither "servant" nor "lord" can be used to end sentences. However, "servant" can be used to say "yes".

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