Wednesday, March 17, 2021


PREFIXES> These shouldn’t, perhaps, be thought about much, early on, not until you’re used to hearing the language – to avoid unproductive confusion.
An example: Fruit is pon-la-mai (rising, high, high and meaning something like useful result of wood) but I hear no ‘n’ only “po-lamai” and feel sure that putting the n sound back would NOT help communication. Poe-la-mai. Forget the ‘wood’ part. Tomatoes are fruit too (ma-kheua-thet, h-r-r); ma-kheua is an eggplant and ‘thet’ means ‘not native’… as in, amazingly, Khruang thet, spices. Just a couple hundred years ago Thailand still had few (red peppers are an import from the “New World” also improperly called the “Americas” but hey nevermind).
Many, if not most, fruits’ names start with ma- as in manao (sounds like ‘come cold’ and means lemon or lime but the ma- there would be mid-tone instead of the high tone used for the first syllable of words for coconut, tamarind, mango, fig , a kind of plum, and a favorite of mine, ma-fai, which I have no English name for).
Pineapple, sapparoht, brings us to an interesting suffix, “sa-“! It’s first syllable ends in a –p, so isn’t at all the same as the suffix for money, to chisel out and extract, notebook, family lineage, station and several other words that show no commonality to explain the suffix they share. Satang, a diminutive for money, reminds me of Ka-tahng, kick-stand, which people often yell at me when I’m absent-minded on a motorcycle. “Ka” can also be a slave or a slave’s shackles… The ‘taang’ has a silent letter on the end so is not the same as ‘way’ (direction) or method (as in “mai mee taang! No way, it’s impossible!”).
Pra, ประ not พระ (monk), is a common suffix that can mean to add or affix. A door, insurance, an announcement or signboard, regular, a nation, the public, a committee meeting, elementary education, chairman, history and many more terms use this suffix but again I fail to see the commonality.
A tunnel, ooh-mong, uses a different ooh suffix than a car repair garage, ooh-roht with low tone (then high) and a longer ‘ooh’… For accidents, oo-bat-ti-het, use the first, while for a dock, ooh-rua, the second. Or use ta-rua.
“Ta” can be eye, father’s father, if, to rub in or paint… Sorry, just another example of why learning a language, even just picking it up without study, takes time, lots of time. A road, thanon, uses a different t-sound letter and doesn’t mean ‘way to get way over there’ although I like to think it could.
“Na” may be the most common suffix. Face, front, ahead, desirable… Ugly is na-gleit, hate-able, but I hear and say “nak-liet” and have for 30 years.
“Nak” indicates heavy (among other things, like occupation) but a nak-rong isn’t a fat singer but a professional one.
‘Man’, which is not part of lemon/lime manao (“it takes”) can be a sexless pronoun (for children and animals), any other ‘it’ or potato. Also, engaged (pen mahn), shiny (pen-mahn similarly but mid instead of falling tome)… or infertile, neutered or stable and secure.