March 17, 2009

Word of the Day: ประชาธิปไตย /praˈchaa thíp.paˈtay/

Word of the Day for Tuesday, March 17, 2009:

ประชาธิปไตย /praˈchaa thíp.paˈtay/ n. democracy

These days, you can't learn Thai and not know this word. The Thai public discourse is downright silly with mentions of it.

As a political buzzword du jour, it gets used and abused. The People's Alliance for Democracy (พันธมิตรประชาชนเพื่อประชาธิปไตย, or พันธมิตร /phan.tha ˈmít/ for short) continues to play tag-team demonstrations with the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (แนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ, or นปช. /nɔɔ pɔɔ chɔɔ/ for short). Everyone is for democracy, and yet it's right at the heart of the struggle.

Thailand's Democrat Party uses a different derivation of the same word: พรรคประชาธิปัตย์ /ˈphák praˈchaa thí ˈpàt/.

You'll often see it with the word ระบอบ /raˈbɔ̀ɔp/ in front, too. ระบอบ means "system," but specifically a system of government. So ระบอบประชาธิปไตย is really just another way of saying "democracy", or more literally "the democratic system (of government)"

Bonus vocab: Other political ideologies include ทุนนิยม /tʰun ní yom/ "capitalism", เทวาธิปไตย /tʰeeˈwaa thíp.paˈtay/ "theocracy", and ธนาธิปไตย /tʰa.naa thíp.paˈtay/ "plutocracy". The Thai Wikipedia infobox about types of government even includes ยนตราธิปไตย /yon.traa thíp.paˈtay/, which I can only imagine must be "robotocracy". Sounds less than awesome, though some would say inevitable.

9 comments:

  1. Perhaps you could examine ระบอบ vis-a-vis ระบบ?

    There are differences, and similarities, and it can be confusing to know which one to use when.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah, ประชาธิปไตย. I forgot we had this word, thanks for reminding me :P

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have a question, does this praˈchaa thíp.paˈtay show you how to pronounce the word in Thai? Is it sort of like a phonetic? I've seen some sentences written this way in some teaching Thai to foreigners textbooks but I had no idea how to read those.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think the transliteration is used to just give a sense of the word to those who can't read Thai script. It does serve as a pronunciation aid as well.
    I personally prefer pronunciation demonstrated using the Thai script or straight-up IPA... but this is useful because it indicates stress and the presence of unwritten or silent vowels.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can't think about this word without the คาราบาว song "ล้างบาง" getting stuck in my head.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Mangkorn Good suggestion. I'll try to do that in the near future.

    @Natta Yeah, the phonetic is there for those who have trouble with/can't read the Thai script.

    There are so many variations it's of dubious usefulness to include at all, but I do like that it indicates stress and "hidden" syllables and such.

    I could do most of it with phonetic Thai, but sometimes there are quirks of pronunciation that the Thai script obscures. Like a short vowel for words like เล่น /lên/ (never /lêen/), or a mid-tone on หนังสือ /naŋˈsʉ̌ʉ/ (nobody really says /ˈnǎŋ ˈsʉ̌ʉ/ with two rising tones, because the first syllable is unstressed).

    So that's why I include the phonetic. I basically just copy and paste it from the Mary Haas dictionary at SEAlang.net, except I replace the superscript h with normal h (cʰ > ch) to avoid font display problems.

    @zeroanaphora I have some problems with using "straightup IPA" for Thai, not the least of which is that in my experience, almost no one who writes academically about Thai uses it. You'll virtually always see a phonemic simplification (with phonetic differentiations where relevant/necessary).

    And on top of that, you'll usually see the symbols simplified or altered, too. Mary Haas originated the use of <ɛ> to represent [æ] (สระแอ) in Thai, the reason being that in her dictionary she showed vowel length through doubling, not with ː, and <ææ> was deemed an eyesore.

    IPA can be very clunky. If strictly followed, จ would be written [tɕ], and ช would be [tɕʰ]. Less than elegant. That's why <c> and <ch> or <j> and <ch> tend to be more common.

    From my experience with "field" linguistics (I've only worked with informants who were in the U.S., outside of the actual field, but I've logged my share of hours doing direct elicitation), you pragmatically have to simplify as quickly as possible. You start out being very phonetically accurate, then distill things down into only contrasting sounds and work out the simplest notation for that. Strictly following IPA just wouldn't make sense in this scenario. You augment this with sound recordings, of course, for later phonetic analysis. Maybe you have some experience here, I don't know.

    So yeah. Can of worms. Anytime I delve into this topic, I always end up bothered at the horrendous inconsistency of it all, which of course I contribute to by not always adhering to the same system on this very blog. Like I said, of dubious usefulness. Blech.

    ReplyDelete
  7. KrisWilllems3/19/2009 12:54 AM

    I am writing a blog about my experience with learning Thai language in Dutch. It's not as advanced and successful as your blog, which I really enjoy. I also don't know which transliteration system to use. I think I'll go for phonetic Thai, because 99% of the readers of this kind of blog can read Thai (and phonetic Thai), but less than 99% seem to be happy with any of the chosen transliteration systems.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oops, I shouldn't have said "straight up" IPA. I defiantly agree that it can bog things down. Mary Haas's system looks a lot like the one used in my reference grammar, which I like. Differentiating the differentiating phonemes is the most important thing, right?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the bonus vocab. ยนตราธิปไตย made me associate to and look up the Thai word for 'puppet regime', which, not surprisingly, turned out to be รัฐบาลหุ่น /rát-tha-baan 'hùn/ ...

    ReplyDelete