Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Vocabulary: 4 animals in the Canidae family in Thai, Lao, and Shan

This post assumes the readers have some basic knowledge of Thai.

Today we are going to learn how to say some of the well-known animals in the Canidae family in Thai, Lao, and Shan (henceforth: TLS). Canidae (KAN-ih-dee) is a family of carnivorous mammals which includes dogs, wolves, dholes, and foxes. The point is to compare commonly used words that are of Tai origin; so, I will not present less commonly used "fancy" words that are Indic loanwords like sunak (สุนัข) "dog".

1. dog
Thai: หมา (ma, IPA: /mǎː/)
Lao: ໝາ (ma, IPA: /mǎː/)
Shan: မႃ (ma, IPA: /mǎ/)

The words in TLS for "dog" are all the same.

2. wolf
Thai: หมาป่า (ma pa, IPA: /mǎː.pàː/)
Lao: ໝາປ່າ (ma pa, IPA: /mǎː.pāː/)
Shan: မႃထိူၼ်ႇ (ma thoen, IPA /mǎ.tʰɤ̀n/, cf. Thai หมาเถื่อน and ป่าเถื่อน)

The words for "wolf" in Thai and Lao are the same (although the tones are different, the two words are from the same Tai roots). The compound is composed of "dog" + "wild/forest/jungle"; the compound literally means "wild dog".

In Shan instead of saying pa, thoen, a word which also exists in Thai and Lao, is used instead.  It roughly has the same meaning as pa. So, although the Shan word is different, the composition of the compound is the same as that of Thai and Lao words.

3. fox
Thai: หมาจิ้งจอก (ma ching chok, IPA: /mǎː.tɕîŋ.tɕɔ̀ːk/, short: จิ้งจอก, ching chok, /tɕîŋ.tɕɔ̀ːk/)
Lao: ໝາຈອກ (ma chok, IPA: /mǎː.tɕɔ̀ːk/)
Shan: မႃလိၼ် (ma lin, IPA: /mǎ.lǐn/, cf. Thai หมาดิน)

The words for "fox" in Thai and Lao are very similar. The Lao word does not have ching (จิ้ง). I do not know the origin of ching chok (จิ้งจอก). This makes me think that (ching) chok might be a loanword. It is possible that chok (จอก) is from the Khmer word cɑcɑɑk (ចចក, จอจอก) which means "wild dog". while ching (and possibly king) serves as a prefix for a small set of animal names such as ching chok (จิ้งจก) "gecko", ching len (จิ้งเหลน) "skink", ching cho (จิงโจ้) "kangaroo", ching rit (จิ้งหรีด) "cricket", and king ka (กิ้งก่า) "lizard".

The Shan word for "fox" is different from the words in Thai and Lao. It literally means "soil dog". While "wild dog" is a sensical way of saying "wolf", I do not know why foxes are called "soil dog".

4. dhole
Thai: หมาใน (ma nai, IPA:/mǎ.nāj/)
Lao: ໝາໃນ (ma nai, IPA:/mǎ.náj/)
Shan: မႃၼႂ်း (ma naue, IPA:/mǎ.náɯ/)

If you do not know what dholes look like, you can use Google image. The words in TLS are all the same (and of course the corresponding tones and vowels are different, but the words have the same roots). Each word literally means "inside dog". I am not sure why dholes are called "inside dog".


Just for fun (and off topic): if Thai had borrowed these words from Middle Chinese...

Tai languages borrowed many words from Middle Chinese such as many numbers and some animals like elephant, horse, and chicken etc. If Thai had borrowed the words for these four words in the Canidae family from Middle Chinese, I think they would look like the words down below.

1. dog 狗 เค้า (kháw)
2. wolf 狼 ลัง (lāng)
3. fox 狐 หู (hǔu)
4. dhole 豺 ไฉ/ไช (chǎi/chāi)