My recent return to Bangkok means I'm official: my Fulbright project was approved by the National Research Council of Thailand.
The project, at its heart, is simple: improve accessibility to Sukhothai-era inscriptions. Why Sukhothai? Because you have to start somewhere, and you can only do so much. The Sukhothai inscriptions comprise some 20,000 words of text. The work I do on this relatively small subset will help me do a better job on the rest of the stone inscriptions of the Tai-language tradition. They're also the oldest Thai writings, so it's a logical starting point.
Specific goals I plan to accomplish include:
- Romanize the Sukhothai corpus (initially with some automation, but manual checking is inevitable)
- Create a web site for searching and browsing the inscriptions, including filtering and sorting by various features (date, script language, text language, material inscribed upon, place found, etc.)
- Full text search of the inscriptions, including basic corpus search tools (pulling out all instances of a given word, with contexts)
- Compile an improved and expanded glossary of Sukhothai Thai (there are several glossaries in Thai, and one notable Thai-English glossary)
- Offend no one in the process (whether Inscription 1 is authentic or not is irrelevant as far as this project is concerned)
Two Thai professors have kindly agreed to be my advisors on this project: Dr. Udom Warotamasikkhadit (ศ.ดร.อุดม วโรตม์สิกขดิตถ์) and Dr. Prasert Na Nagara (ศ.ดร.ประเสริฐ ณ นคร), both fellows of the Royal Institute (Dr. Udom is also currently Secretary of the Academy of Arts). They are both busy men, and I am very grateful to them both for their support of my work.
In particular, Dr. Prasert is a giant in Thai epigraphy. He turns 90 this year, but still serves on numerous committees of the Royal Institute. He's there every day, Monday to Friday. One such committee is working on the forthcoming Dictionary of Ancient Words (พจนานุกรมโบราณศัพท์). Dr. Prasert is practically a household name, so it was an honor to finally meet him last year.
Dr. Udom is also one of the fathers of modern linguistics in Thailand, having written a now classic word on Thai syntax as his Ph.D. dissertation in 1963, and numerous books since. I first met him in 2005, when I was working on my senior thesis for my B.A. He has always been very encouraging and helpful to me.
The tone and content of this blog jump around a lot, but I hope I won't be scaring too many readers away if I use it as an outlet for topics that grab my interest in the course of my research.
Finally, I'll reiterate that this project would not be underway if it weren't for the Fulbright Program, which saw some value in letting me loose on a topic that I'm not "qualified" to tackle. I know I have something to contribute, though, so I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'm really jumping in the deep end here, but I'm loving it. Stay tuned.