Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tai Languages Have a Word for "Three Days after Today" and Why They are Different

Non-Thai languages in this blog entry are transliterated with Thai letters.

One interesting fact about Tai languages investigated in this entry is that they have words that refer to days that do not exist in English and many other languages. In particular, while there are words for "day before yesterday--ereyesterday" and "day after tomorrow--overmorrow", these Tai languages also have a word for "three days after today".

Section I contains words in Tai languages which have been transliterated with Thai letters. Section II contains the pronunciation of these words for those who are interested in learning how to say these words. Sections III to VI contain explanations that may account for why these words are the way they are.

I. Words

1. Ereyesterday*
root: ซืน *zɯɯn.A
Thai: -ซืน, วันซืน, วานซืน (common)
Lao: -ซืน, มื้อซืน
Tai Lue: -ซืน, วันซืน
Shan: -ซือ, มื้อซือ

2. Yesterday
root: วาน *waan.A
Thai: -วาน, เมื่อวาน, วันวาน
Lao: -วาน, มื้อวาน
Tai Lue: -วา, วันวา
Shan: -วา, มื้อวา

3. Today
word formation: "day + demonstrative; literally: this day"
Thai: วันนี้
Lao: มื้อนี้
Tai Lue: วันนิ
Shan: มื้อไน้

4. Tomorrow
root: พรูก, *bruuk.D
Thai: -พรูก, วันพรุ่ง, พรุ่งนี้, วันพรูก (rare)
Lao: -พูก, มื้ออื่น (most common), พูกนี้ (rare, ร in พร is dropped in modern Lao)
Tai Lue: -ภูก, - วันภูก (ภ is derived from พร)
Shan: -ภูก, มื้อภูก (ภ is derived from พร)

5. Overmorrow*
root: รือ, *rɯɯ.A
Thai: -รืน, มะรืน (from เมื่อรืน, probably from เมื่อรือ),
Lao: -รือ, มื้อรือ **
Tai Lue: -รือ, วันรือ **
Shan: -รือ, มื้อรือ **

6. Three days after today (over-overmorrow?)
root: All these Tai languages do not seem to have a common root
Thai: -เรื่อง, มะเรื่อง (from เมื่อเรื่อง)
Lao: -ตื่ง, มื้อตื่ง
Tai Lue: -แร, วันแร (read วันแฮ)
Shan: ??? (if you know a Shan word for this, please let me know)

* rare English terms. Ereyesterday is an old term for the day before yesterday, and overmarrow is an old term for the day after tomorrow. Another term for ereyesterday, albeit also rare, is nudiustertian. Let's start using these terms in speech though!

** In non-Thai languages, ร is pronounced as ฮ.

II. Pronunciation (for learners of these languages)
1. Ereyesterday*
Thai: wan.sɯɯn
Lao: mɯ̂ɯ.sɯ́ɯn
Tai Lue: wân.sɯ̂ɯn
Shan: mɯ̂ɯ.sɯ́ɯn

2. Yesterday
Thai: mɯ̂a.waan
Lao: mɯ̂ɯ.wáan
Tai Lue: wân.wâa
Shan: mɯ̂ɯ.wáa

3. Today
Thai: wan.níi
Lao: mɯ̂ɯ.nîi
Tai Lue: wân.nìʔ
Shan: mɯ̂ɯ.nâi

4. Tomorrow
Thai: pʰrûŋ.níi
Lao: mɯ̂ɯ.ʔɯɯn, mɯ̂ɯ.pʰûuk (rare)
Tai Lue: wan.pʰǔuk
Shan: mɯ̂ɯ.pʰûuk

5. Overmorrow
Thai: ma.rɯɯn
Lao: mɯ̂ɯ.hɯ́ɯ
Tai Lue: wân.hɯ̂ɯ
Shan: mɯ̂ɯ.hɯ́ɯ

6. Three days after today
Thai: ma.rɯ̂aŋ
Lao: ma.tɯɯŋ
Tai Lue: wân.hɛ̂ɛ
Shan: ???

III. Why are words for "three days after today" unrelated?
While it is quite transparent that the words from 1-5 in Thai, Lao, Tai Lue, and Shan are related, the words in 6, i.e. "three days after today", however do not seem to be so. In particular, the words for 6 do not seem to share a common root.

In order to explain for why words in 6 have different origins, I argue that the term for "three days after today" in each language was developed independently. In particular, I argue that the terms in 6 were created after a single Tai language had split into different Tai languages, whereas the terms from 1-5 were created before the split.

The question for whence these words come still remains.

IV. How did พรูกนี้ in Thai become พรุ่งนี้?
An explanation for this is nasal assimilation. The nasality of the succeeding sound may have caused the preceding stop to become nasalized. Thus, the nasality of น may have nasalized the ก (velar stop), which thence became a ง --a velar nasal sound.

V. How did มะรือ in Thai become มะรืน?
Two possible explanations. First, it could be that the final -น in -วาน and -ซืน may have caused the speakers to over-generalize all words related to days to end in a -น. Thus, รือ may have become รืน due to the influence of the - น in วาน and ซืน. Second, alternatively it could be that the speakers may have incorrectly parsed the -น in -นี้ as in มะรือนี้ as two -น's. Thence, the first น became a final consonant for รือ.

VI. How did วาน in Tai Lue and Shan become วา, and how did ซืน in Shan become ซือ?
Explanation for this is the opposite of the explanation for how มะรือ in Thai became มะรืน. In particular, it could be that the speakers may have over-generalized all words related to days, except for "today", to not end in -น. Thus, the fact that รือ in Tai Lue and Shan does not end in -น may have influenced the speakers to drop the -น in วาน and ซืน (Shan only).