PM urges Royal Institute to accept changes made to Thai language by Internet
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Monday urged the Royal Institute to face changes caused to the Thai language by usage of the language on Internet and accept the changes.
Abhisit said the Royal Institute must regulate and create standard for the changes in the language while campaigning for the correct usage of the language.
The prime minister said his government would also make it a national agenda to campaign for Thai youths to love reading.
I have no idea what prompted this urging. And I can't seem to find any mention of this in the Thai press.
The Royal Institute is in charge of creating and promoting language standards, which in most cases includes trying to hold back the tide of change in the modern language.
There is a general attitude of disapproval among the older generation about how young folks speak (and especially write) Thai these days.
There's nothing uniquely Thai about this, of course. The same discussions are going on in the U.S. about "proper (American) English" those darn whippersnappers and their text messages and cellular telephones and all the LOL on the series of tubes that make up the interwebs. Heh.
The difference, of course, is that there is no organization in Englishdom that has a mandate to "protect" the language. In Thailand, that's where the Royal Institute comes in (and many other countries have similar organizations to set standards for their own national languages).
But since virtually all Royal Institute Fellows (ราชบัณฑิต) are retirement age, and some are nearing the century mark, they basically embody the (multi-)generation gap.
In addition to the many books it publishes, the public relations outreach of the Royal Institute involves annual awards for excellence in the use of the Thai language, regular radio spots with language tidbits, and most recently, a short cartoon segment teaching proper language that is to air each evening. They have also begun the process of producing a language quiz show program for NBT. In other words, it's all very 20th century.
So basically what Abhisit is asking, I think, is for them to stop ignoring the fact that the internet is perhaps the single greatest cause of language change. But it's also interesting that he is reported to have urged them to "accept the changes".
Somehow I don't really see that happening. However, I agree that somebody should at least be paying attention to new language trends instead of dismissing them as "incorrect" internet Thai.
One of the reasons given for the Royal Institute's Dictionary of New Words project (volume 1 was released October 2007, and volume 2 is in the pipeline) was to record the modern language (without legitimizing it, however), so that at least those who look back on the language of this day will be able to make sense of it.
That seems like a decent reason, but of course the approach is extremely narrow. A group of perhaps a dozen committee members sit around a table and try to come up with "new" words they've heard. Just as with their main dictionary, there is no systematic attempt to comb things like the internet or comic books to assure adequate coverage of the words in use in the real world. Not to mention variant spellings, and new senses constantly being given to existing words.
Keeping up with the language is a daunting task. For an organization with as much expertise as it has, the Royal Institute remains largely irrelevant in the modern Thai world.
Perhaps Abhisit realizes that, and that prompted his statement. But it stands to be seen whether the Royal Institute itself will realize it. If not, they'll continue trying to instruct people who simply aren't listening.