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Richard W

Thai Dictionary With Accurate Pronunciation

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Can anyone recommend a Thai dictionary which will completely and reliably tell me the tones and vowel lengths, and the pronunciation of compounds. When I last bought a large Thai dictionary, the 'New Standard Thai-English Dictionary', by Nit Tongsopit (นิจ ทองโสภิต), I thought, because it used a modification of the IPA to show vowel lengths, it would give me vowel lengths not shown in the spelling. Having used it, I have discovered that the apparent consideration given to the lengths of the vowels commonly transcribed 'ae' and 'or' was actually random failure to manually insert the IPA length mark (which looks like a colon inserted with a felt-tip pen in this dictionary).

I only need pronunciations which cannot be reliably deduced from the spelling to be shown. Thus if แป๊บเดียว is [sH]paep[M]diao (is it?), I would need it to at least show that the first vowel is short, and I would need it to tell me if (better - whether) the irregular tone rule applied, so I would need it to tell me that โสร่ง is [M/L]sa[L]roong and not [R]soo[F]rong. In the first case, a 'respelling' of the first syllable as แป็๊บ (maitaikhu and mai tri together) would do. (Thai doen't use this combination, but the input methods allow it.)

It should also address modified tones, such as ฉัน [H]chan, where the spelling indicates [R]chan. I would also like it to tell me enough to know that สัตวแพทย์ 'vet' is properly pronounced [L]sat[L]ta[H]wa[F]phaet.

It would be nice if told me that นคร was [M]na[M]khorn but that พระนคร was [H]phra[H]na[M]khorn.

Does such a dictionary exist? It doesn't matter whether it is a Thai-English or Thai-Thai dictionary.

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Richard, I've never found an entirely reliable Thai-English dictionary, so I tend to use Thai-Thai dictionaries. Ratchabandit illustrates the pronunciations for some of the many words that are exceptions to the rule. For example if you look up ประโยค, immediately following the entry you see (ประโหยก), letting you know that although the 'canonical' pronunciation would lend a falling tone to the 2nd syllable (-โยค), it's actually pronunced as a low tone.

Ratchabandit doesn't typically give 'exception' pronunciations for vocabulary that doesn't come from P/S or other 'foreign' sources. For example under น้ำ there's no clue that the vowel is pronounced long (as opposed to the same word without the mai thoh, which would have the standard short-vowel rendering of อำ). For these exceptions I rely on my ears :o or corrections from Thai friends.

Of the Thai-English dics I've used, by far the best were George McFarland and Mary Haas. Both are out of date but offer better translations and transcriptions than any of the Thailand-published Thai-English dics.

I'm not particuarly impressed with Robertson's, which has a rather limited lexicon compared to Haas and McFarland. I particularly like McFarland because it contains a lot of arcane info about herbs, plants and trees, info all the other dics -- including the better Thai-Thai dics -- are lacking.

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Richard, I've never found an entirely reliable Thai-English dictionary, so I tend to use Thai-Thai dictionaries. Ratchabandit illustrates the pronunciations for some of the many words that are exceptions to the rule. For example if you look up ประโยค, immediately following the entry you see (ประโหยก), letting you know that although the 'canonical' pronunciation would lend a falling tone to the 2nd syllable (-โยค), it's actually pronunced as a low tone.

Both Nit Tongsopit and the RID note that exception. (They don't always agree on the irregular tone rule, but several words seem to have both pronunciations.)

(I wonder if that word was ever spelt โปยค? It definitely feels as though the word was borrowed from Pali ปโยค, and the 'ร' introduced from Sanskrit later.)

Ratchabandit doesn't typically give 'exception' pronunciations for vocabulary that doesn't come from P/S or other 'foreign' sources. For example under น้ำ there's no clue that the vowel is pronounced long (as opposed to the same word without the mai thoh, which would have the standard short-vowel rendering of อำ). For these exceptions I rely on my ears  :o or corrections from Thai friends.

Does Ratchabandit handle the mid-consonant initial, dead syllable, long <e> (เ) short ae (แ) short or (อ) cases? If his respellings adhere to Thai orthographic rules, he can't! That's my major complaint against the RID.

One of my objections to Robertson's dictionary is that it is no use for checking Thai spellings - a use my Thai wife makes of our disintegrating Thai-English dictionary. It's held together by its threads - the glue has snapped.

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(I wonder if that word was ever spelt โปยค?  It definitely feels as though the word was borrowed from Pali ปโยค, and the 'ร' introduced from Sanskrit later.)
Sounds very plausible to me.
Does Ratchabandit handle the mid-consonant initial, dead syllable, long <e> (เ) short ae (แ) short or (อ) cases?  If his respellings adhere to Thai orthographic rules, he can't!  That's my major complaint against the RID.

What's RID, Royal Institute Dictionary? If so then we're talking about the same dictionary I think.

At any rate, no, Ratchabandit doesn't suggest pronunciations for those cases, or any other native Thai.

However I just checked my yellowing, musty McFarland (I can still remember buying it brand new 25 years ago), and he makes these distinctions quite clearly, using his own unique transcriptions. Do you have McFarland?

example:

เก gkay

เกก gkek4 [the '4' marks the tone in his system]

That's what you mean, right?

Why do you need a dictionary that makes these explicit? It sounds like you understand the exceptions quite well already ...

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Does Ratchabandit handle the mid-consonant initial, dead syllable, long <e> (เ) short ae (แ) short or (อ) cases?  If his respellings adhere to Thai orthographic rules, he can't!  That's my major complaint against the RID.

What's RID, Royal Institute Dictionary? If so then we're talking about the same dictionary I think.

At any rate, no, Ratchabandit doesn't suggest pronunciations for those cases, or any other native Thai.

Yes, RID = Royal Institute Dictionary. I only really know it through the on-line version.

However I just checked my yellowing, musty McFarland (I can still remember buying it brand new 25 years ago), and he makes these distinctions quite clearly, using his own unique transcriptions. Do you have McFarland?
No, I don't.
example:

เก    gkay

เกก  gkek4 [the '4' marks the tone in his system]

That's what you mean, right?

Why do you need a dictionary that makes these explicit? It sounds like you understand the exceptions quite well already ...

I don't know this word or เก๊ก. I didn't know that the spelling got as bad as it does in the word you cited. I know the ambiguity and a reluctance to mark /or/ as short, but I don't know what the vowel lengths actually are, even in loanwords from English. I seen to be bad at hearing pure length differences, but pick up cues from the quality instead.

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à¡ = distorted, twisted

à¡¡ = bent abnormally, curved, perverted, slanting

So McFarland uses /ay/ for long à and /e/ for short à in the environment you described, pretty logical.

I suppose this isn't really an exception, as it's pretty universal, I think, that Thai words that end in stops (dead right?) shorten a long vowel like this.

Richard, McFarland is well worth owning. Very good value, it's easily the most sophisticated Thai-English dictionary yet published, despite not having been updated since the 1940s.

Thai-English Dictionary

George Bradley McFarland, M.D.

Stanford University Press 1944

The foreword to the second printing (1953) was written by none other than Mary R, Haas, with such gems as "Prospective users of the McFarland dictionary will be well advised to have received some training in reading and writing the Thai language beforehand, since it is unquestionably not a book for the untrained beginner."

And

"The excellence of the McFarland dictionary resulted not only from the original contributions made by McFarland and his assistants, but also from the fact that they wisely chose to use the official monolingual Siamese Dictionary, prepared by the Ministry of Education, as their principal source of reference and thus performed a very valuable service to English-speaking students of Thai by making the essential contents of this monolingual dictionary available with English definitions in place of Thai definitions."

It's not perfect and you will find a few inconsistencies in the transcriptions, but it's the best there is.

Haas' own dictionary, is aptly titled the Thai-English *Student's* Dictionary, with fewer, and less detailed entries.

I have a hard copy of the latest Ratchabandit/RID (2542/1999), a steal at 900 baht for 1400+ pages. It contains a long chapter on pronunciation, which I've not read thoroughly but it may very well include some of the issues you asked about, thus making it unnecessary to provide pronunciation guides for every word in the dictionary.

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à¡ = distorted, twisted

à¡¡ = bent abnormally, curved, perverted, slanting

So McFarland uses /ay/ for long à and /e/ for short à in the environment you described, pretty logical.

I suppose this isn't really an exception, as it's pretty universal, I think, that Thai words that end in stops (dead right?) shorten a long vowel like this.

As we're having a spot of trouble with Thai characters (yours have been

saved as Latin-1) - ko kai has become inverted exclamation mark, and sara e has become a grave, I'll experimentally transliterate (in angle brackets) using ISO 11940:1998 cast into Latin-1 (a.k.a. Western European). There's been no feedback on your (= Sabaijai's) suggestions on transcription, which I've been using experimentally.

Which tone does the '4' in McFarland's transcription /gkek4/ of เกก <kek> /[?]gek/ represent? I had guessed 'high' (my list of his tone names only has five names), but now I'm beginning to wonder.

I'm not aware of any regular vowel shortening sound change ever applying in the history of Siamese, though I am aware of the change *[F]phruuk[H]nii > [F]phruk[H]nii > [F]phrung[H]nii. I presume the พรุก <phruk> in the RID ought to be พรุ่ก <phrùk>. (ISO 11940 tone accents seem to be unthinking transcriptions of tone marks - someone please correct me if I'm wrong.)

As a matter of history, native Thai words have short /e/ in closed syllables, while words from Pali or Sanskrit have long /ee/, e.g. native เล็ก /[H]lek/ <l^:ek> 'small' versus P/S เลข /[F]leek/ <le¯kh> 'number' and native เห็ด /[L]het/ <¯h^:et> 'mushroom' versus Sanskrit เหตุ /[L]heet/ <¯hetu> 'reason'. (ISO 11940 notes: ¯ before (properly over) means high class consonant. ^: is the best I can do for a breve - the short sign familiar to those who have studied Latin; perhaps I should arbitrarily use ë. Has Meadish Sweetball any suggestions?) There is also a recent loan from English with a long vowel - เค้ก /[H]kheek/ <khêk> 'cake', the official and commonest (2,450 google hits) spelling. Please correct me if I am wrong - เค๊ก <khék> (also implying /[H]kheek/) gets 114 hits, and เค็ก <kh^:ek> (implying /[H]khek/) gets 175 hits. I assume the latter spelling is merely an application of the principle that tone takes precedence over vowel length in writing. I also noticed the latter used in a transliteration of 'Tony Craig' - googling also picks up slips of the finger!

Do words borrowed from Chinese tend to have short vowels when they are dead syllables?

Richard, McFarland is well worth owning. Very good value, it's easily the most sophisticated Thai-English dictionary yet published, despite not having been updated since the 1940s.
It does seem as though this is the one to go for.
I have a hard copy of the latest Ratchabandit/RID (2542/1999), a steal at 900 baht for 1400+ pages.

Could it be subsidised? Or is it that it will have large sales? I remember being presently surprised in the early 80's when I discovered (after problems specifying the author) that the Old Testament (Stuttgart edition) only cost £15.

It contains a long chapter on pronunciation, which I've not read thoroughly but it may very well include some of the issues you asked about, thus making it unnecessary to provide pronunciation guides for every word in the dictionary.

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My most valuable possession is an Thai-English, English Thai dictionary By Benjawan Poomsan Becker.

The purists out there will say that you should learn to read Thai at the same time as speaking since Thai is a phonetic language........didn't work for me.....brain to small to cope.

The dictionary translates English->transliteration->Thai and vice versa. This means that I could get used to pronouncing the word (I'm the type that learns best from example) instead of just pointing to the Thai translation and trying to pick up the nuances of the Thai pronunciation.

It also has a transliteration->Thai->English section that meant I could hear a phrase in conversation and come home and look it up.

It also has (I think) the best transliteration for tones, vowels and consonant sounds that I have come accross. I could read a word from the dictionary and they actually understood me!!!!.

Your example of ????????? is described as "sat-dta-wa-peet" where (my keyboard does not support the font) "sat" is pronounced with a low tone (a sounds like the a in Alaska), "dt" is half way between a "d" and a "t" (both unvoiced and unaspirated), wa with a mid tone (a as in Alaska again) and "peet" with a falling tone (ee is like the a in "sad").

Just asked the woman down the shop where one is and she told me correctly so must be close.

As a footnote: It also has multiple usages. For example the word rack is not directly translatable so it has

RACK

chan(shelf)

raao(for hanging things on)

kroong(framework)

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i too find that dictionary a real gem , although it has a somewhat limited lexicon, it comes into its own for me at least when watching tv or listening to the radio, i can look up a word i have just heard in a few seconds whereas using a thai dictionary would take me at least a minute and often longer.

an added bonus is that similar sounding words are grouped together and for someone like myself who is just coming to grips with thai spelling i find it very helpful to see the different spellings of similar sounds (similar to my ears anyway)

to have e.g.

คัน ครรภ์ คั่น ขั้น คั้น ขัน

all listed one after the other can only be a good thing.

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Dee-tee-sood, meaning, "best" I found and is my Thai Bible, The Conversation Dictionary of the Thai Language by Knun Wit Thiengburanathum, Ph.D. English-Thai, Thai-English. I used ti with my AUA studies at the university and it got me through my homework! My teacher bought it for me and several other students however if you go on Amazon the ISBN 974 245 656 9 might help. The cover is Black, Red and Yellow striped.

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Dee-tee-sood, meaning, "best" I found and is my Thai Bible, The Conversation Dictionary of the Thai Language by Knun Wit Thiengburanathum, Ph.D. English-Thai, Thai-English. I used ti with my AUA studies at the university and it got me through my homework! My teacher bought it for me and several other students however if you go on Amazon the ISBN 974 245 656 9 might help. The cover is Black, Red and Yellow striped.

But how accurate is it? His 'Se-ed's Modern English-Thai Dictionary' gives the same pronunciation for English wane and when (both as เวน) and for non-rhotic bairn /แบร์น/ and ban /แบน/. Does he discriminate more with Thai?

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