Friday, August 14, 2015

Turning an abstract noun into a modifier: "science" to "scientific"

This topic also applies to other Tai languages including Lao and Northern Thai, but I will only use examples from Thai.

This post assumes that the readers have some basic knowledge of Thai and already know how to read Thai. The tones are omitted in the transcription. 

You probably know how to say these nouns: wit tha ya sat (วิทยาศาสตร์) "science", sat sa na (ศาสนา) "religion", and kot mai (กฎหมาย) "law". But, do you know how to say "scientific knowledge", "religious belief", and "legal issue"? How do you turn an abstract noun into a modifier?

In Thai, you use thang dan (ทางด้าน, lit. way-side) which sometimes gets reduced to just thang (ทาง).* You add thang dan in between the main noun (e.g. knowledge, khwam ru ความรู้) and the modifier noun (e.g. science/scientific): khwam ru thang dan wit tha ya sat (ความรู้ทางด้านวิทยาศาสตร์): "scientific knowledge".

In some cases, you can completely omit thang dan and put the noun immediately in front of the modifier noun: knowledge ø wit tha ya sat (ความรู้วิทยาศาสตร์). In this second option, you are somewhat creating your own compound noun. However, with this method, some listeners might not understand you because it might sound like a word is missing to them. So, I personally do not recommend this second option and instead suggest that you should always use thang dan or its reduced form thang to make communication smoother.

You do not use khong (ของ) which can also turn a noun into a modifier.  Khong turns a noun into a possessive noun: khwam ru khong wit tha ya sat (ความรู้ของวิทยาศาสตร์) "science's knowledge" or "knowledge of science". Similarly you do not use haeng (แห่ง) which functions similarly to khong but it is often used to denote the origin of the noun: khwam ru haeng wit tha ya sat (ความรู้แห่งวิทยาศาสตร์) "the knowledge which originates from science". Plus it sounds very strange in Thai.

Given what I have written above, how would you use translate the following?

1) religious belief = "ความเชื่อถือ________ศาสนา"
    (belief = ความเชื่อถือ)
2) legal issue = "ปัญหา________กฎหมาย"
     (issue = ปัญหา)

answers: 1) ความเชื่อถือทางด้านศาสนา 2) ปัญหาทางด้านกฎหมาย

*Another form is thang dan khong (ทางด้านของ), but this form is sort of like the opposite form of the reduced form thang. This form sounds strange to me. So I recommend that you stick to either thang dan or thang.

1 comment:

dominick egan said...

Very good explanation and examples. (I find it difficult to find this type learning in Thai language instruction books for English learners.)
Thank you.