Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shan phrases and words: Where is it? Where is the restroom?

You will need a Shan font to read the Shan texts in this post.
This post assumes that the readers have some basic knowledge of Thai and are currently learning Shan. If you do not speak Thai, you will simply have to ignore the parts in which Thai is compared to Shan.
Mi tang laue which means "where is it?" in Shan.

In this post, I will show you how to say "where is it?", where "it" can be replaced by the thing that the speaker is looking for. To illustrate how it works, I will replace it with "restroom"--a word that can be very useful especially when you are traveling to Shan state, Burma. When you want to ask "where is the restroom?" in Shan, you should say hong phai mi tang laue kha (မီးတၢင်းလႂ်ၶႃႈ; corresponding words in Thai: ห้องผ้ายมีทางใดข้า). Below I will take this phrase apart and explain why you should use this phrase and not other words. I will number each part, so that it is easier to read.

1. "Where is (it)?"
mi tang laue 
(gloss: have way which)
IPA: /mí táːŋ lǎɯ/
Shan: မီးတၢင်းလႂ်
Word-for-word translation to Thai: มีทางใด

If you speak Thai, you might be able to change the verb mi to yu: yu tang lue (/jù táːŋ lǎɯ/ Thai gloss: อยู่ทางใด; cf. Thai อยู่ที่ไหน). However, this wording is not as common as the one in (1). So, I advise you against it. Instead I recommend that you use the phrase in (1).

The order: 
[the thing that one is looking for] +  mi tang laue

Incorrect order: 
mi tang laue + [the thing that one is looking for]

(cf. Thai: [the thing that one is looking for] + yu thi nai อยู่ที่ไหน)

Now I will replace [the thing that one is looking for] with "restroom", but before I do that, I will discuss what the words for "restroom" are and explain why you should use hong phai.

2. "restroom"
There are several ways of to say this word, but the most common and the polite one is hong phai (ႁွင်ႈၽၢႆႈ). So, I recommend that you use this one not other synonyms--especially when you are traveling and have to ask a stranger where the restroom is.
hong phai
(gloss: room excrete)
IPA: /hɔ̄ŋ.pʰāːj/
Shan: ႁွင်ႈၽၢႆႈ
Word-for-word translation to Thai: ห้องผ้าย. ผ้าย is not used in Thai, but if this word were to exist in Thai it would probably be spelled this way.

2A. other words for "restroom" are ti ok nok and tang phai.
ti ok nok
(gloss: place exit outside)
IPA: /tiː ʔɔ̀k nɔ̄k/
Shan: တီႈဢွၵ်ႇၼွၵ်ႈ
Word-for-word translation to Thai: ที่ออกนอก

tang phai
(gloss: room excrete)
Shan: တၢင်ၽၢႆႈ
Word-for-word translation to Thai: ถางผ้าย. ถาง is not used in Thai, but if this word were to exist in Thai it would probably be spelled this way.

2B. You do not want to use the following words which are calques from the Thai words hong nam (ห้องน้ำ) and hong suam (ห้องส้วม). While these words mean "restroom" in Thai, they mean different things in Shan:
Hong nam (ႁွင်ႈၼမ်ႉ; /hɔ̄ŋ.nâm/) has two meanings: one refers to a restroom while the other refers to a small river (cf. Thai ร่องน้ำ, gloss: stream water).
Hong som (ႁွင်ႈသူမ်ႈ; /hɔ̄ŋ.sōm/) literally means "sour room" (cf. Lao ห้องส้ม/ຫ້ອງສົ້ມ, gloss: room sour)

Now I will show you how to say "where is the restroom?" in Shan.

3. "Where is the restroom?" (The formula: [thing one is looking for] +  mi tang laue)
hong phai mi tang laue
IPA: /hɔ̄ŋ.pʰāːj mí táːŋ lǎɯ/
Shan: ႁွင်ႈၽၢႆႈမီးတၢင်းလႂ်
Word-for-word translation to Thai: ห้องผ้ายมีทางใด

Now when you actually ask the question in (3) to a stranger, you will want to add the Shan polite ending word, which can also be a polite personal pronoun, kha (lit. "servant/slave") as shown in (4). Not adding the polite word as in (3) might make you sound rude.

4.  "Where is the restroom?" (polite and recommended)
hong phai mi tang laue kha
IPA: /hɔ̄ŋ.pʰāːj mí táːŋ lǎɯ kʰā/
Shan: ႁွင်ႈၽၢႆႈမီးတၢင်းလႂ်ၶႃႈ
Word-for-word translation to Thai: ห้องผ้ายมีทางใดข้า

You can compare this Shan polite word to other self-deprecating words which overlap with personal pronouns in other Tai languages. In related language speaker may use self-deprecating words to do two things: to be polite and to elevate his/her listener. Some of these are kha (ข้า, "servant") in older form of Thai which later became kha (ค่ะ), khanoi (ຂ້ານ້ອຍ/ข้าน้อย "little servant/slave") in Lao, and khoi (ข้อย "servant/slave") in Tai Lue, and chao (เจ้า, "lord/master") in Northern Thai which does the opposite to achieve the same effect.

In case, you do not have a Shan font and are terrible at pronouncing things (especially when I have not provided Shan audio files), but you still want to communicate to the Shan people in Shan, I have created a picture containing the phrase for you. Of course in reality you might be able to ask them in English or Burmese, but I personally think that the people will respect you more if you try your best to attempt to speak their language. Anyway you can print it and use it while you are traveling:

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my Shan consultant, Korndai Tongfah for sharing his knowledge with me and the readers.

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