Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The aspects of Aspect

In English, tense and aspect are usually conflated. Thai doesn't grammatically mark tense at all, but it has an "extremely rich" system for marking aspect. ARGT outlines 19 "aspectual auxiliaries."

This is an exercise identical to the one I did on pragmatic particles- I've hunted for "real" examples of usage from my Doraemon manga. My standard disclaimer of "I don't know what I'm doing" applies to both my translations and interpretations of my reference grammar's explanations.

I've bolded the auxileries and bolded the words they translate to, when applicable. Often it's just not possible.

1. _แล้ว
This shouldn't be confused with the perfect/anterior usage of แล้ว (see below @ 11.) It "shouldn't", but honestly, I'm finding the distinction difficult to understand in certain contexts. I may have this example backwards.
Anyway, in this form, it indicates a completed event. Sometimes translated in ARGT with "after".

อ๋อ...! นายกินโกหก 800 เข้าไป... แล้วพูดว่าฉันคงไม่ได้กลับมาแล้วใช่มั้ยล่ะ
"Oh! You drank the Liar 800... and said that I wouldn't return, right?"
Notice the 2nd use of แล้ว, which I believe is the #11 usage. I'm probably overthinking this, because I do seem to grasp the meaning in either use. It doesn't really matter that I can't discern the precise linguistic difference.

2. _อยู่
This is "used post-verbally for all types of continuous aspect". Other pre-verbal auxiliaries can be used in conjunction- ARGT details กำลัง, ยัง, นั่ง, and คอย.

อยู่ can be used on it's own.
"Why is it sleeping?"

กำลัง _ (อยู่)
"Emphasises a continuous situation"
"I'm thinking the same way!"

ยัง _ (อยู่)
"Indicates no change in a situation."
"Then Perro will still be alive."

3. นั่ง _ (อยู่)
This is used with either stative or "low-energy" verbs and must have a human subject.

"You're absentminded every day."

(This is a bad example, as นั่ง also means "sit" and can be interpreted as a serial verb- this is more probably "You sit here absentminded every day." ARGT notes the ambiguity.)

4. คอย (อยู่)
คอย also means "wait" but I couldn't find any example of it being used aspectually.

5. _ไป
ไป is a very common verb, but here it's used as a "continuative" auxilery which implies more deliberate continuation than the regular progressive aspect.
"Keep watching!"
(There is another usage of ไป, (see #13) but the contexts are so different you can't confuse them.)

8. กำลังจะ _ อยู่
Inceptive. "refers to the phase which leads to, or may lead to, an event."
"You're about to go to school on your own."

9. จวนจะ _
This is similar but "can be used for a less intentional event with inanimate subjects."

10. _ จบ, _ เสร็จ
Terminative- "finish doing". จบ focuses on "completion", while เสร็จ focuses on "the ending of an activity, not necessarily the completion."
"When our task is done, we'll take you down."
(I don't see how this differs from just being a resultative sequential verb but oh well.)


11. _ แล้ว
This is what ARGT says: "Perfect/anterior aspect concerns the 'relevance' of a particular situation with respect to the current situation." It translates the examples with the word "have", as in "I have eaten" vs "I ate."

"You had promised Doraemon this."

With stative verbs (adjectives), it "indicates that the critical point has been reached".

"Now I'm serious."

"I know!" ("Eureka!")

12. มา
Similar to the previously mentioned แล้ว but doesn't fall at the end of the sentence. In some cases emphasizes the fact that a situation has been continuing up to the reference time."
"I raised it since it was an egg."
13. _ ไป
When used with "destruction or disappearance" verbs, this emphasizes the destruction or disappearance.

"The elephant is gone!"

14. _ (ไป)เสีย
"Indicates that an event has taken place completely with an irreversible result."

"I couldn't find you for the longest time."
This is another swiss-army word, so I'm not 100% on this one.

15. _ ไว้
"Indicates a completed event which is considered beneficial in the future."
"Last year you promised!"
16. เพิ่ง(จะ) _
An action that has just happened- "immediate perfect/anterior"

"He's just recieved freedom for the first time."

17. เคย_
"have an experience of doing". Basically "ever."
"We once were happy (had happiness) like this."

18. ได้ _
When ได้ is pre-verbal, it basically means "get to do" (the more common post-verbal usage conveys ability.)

"And I got to evacuate to the countryside with my family.
It seems more common in the negative, where it "normally refers to the past time frame." IIRC, it often sort of acts like a general past-tense, which is why I'm not translating the following sentence with "get".

"The cats weren't speaking truthfully."
The translation doesn't really contain any hint of the inchoactive ได้, but its effects is there. If you take ได้ out of the sentence, you get แมวไม่พูดจริงๆ, "The cats aren't speaking truthfully." The inchoactive ได้ defiently alters the aspect, marking the event (the cats lying) as completed.

19. _ ขึ้น & _ ลง
"Change-of-state" verbs that apply to stative verbs (adjectives). The former means "increase" and the later "decrease", although they act differently on some words.
The wind's strength has increased.
Then, the war ended. (Lit: got quieter (สงบลง).
This text appears over a mushroom cloud. Assuming that สงบ acts the same as it's synonym เงียบ, these auxs have an interesting effect. With ขึ่น it "implies that the degree of silence has increased" while with ลง that "the degree of noise has decreased". Seems an apropos way to describe the effect of an atomic bomb.

Next: Question-word-questions, which are giving me a bit of trouble due to their ability to also be indefinite expressions. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

ลึลๆ ในใจ

This is the first Thai song to get stuck in my head. I found it on eThaiMusic and on first 23 listens I didn't understand anything but the chorus. But yesterday I combed through the lyrics and realized there was only a handful of words I didn't know. Otherwise, after one read-through, I could comprehend the lyrics completely. I think this has been very helpful in connecting the written word to the spoken.

As for the written word: I've gotten to the point where the Doraemon comic book is starting to actually seem like the children's comic book it is. Parts are still challenging, but I'm taking a break from it. I picked up Thai for Advanced Readers for the first time in a while and was surprised to find how much easier it is. I'm confident my reading is good enough to work through it until the end. (I'd made it about halfway before.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

exciting opportunities in rote memorization

I just discovered Study Stack.

The site is a little clunky, but it's awesome.

It lets you import simple simple data... and generates a bunch of helpful or stupid study aids. It's absolutely *perfect* for studying vocabulary. I've inputed a lot of margin notes.

I have 80+ words in the stack now. I figure I'll weed out words as I learn them (already a few, like หนี, I have down) and add new ones as needed. Also trying to use mnemonics to memorize vocab (never tried this.)

Monday, October 13, 2008


I've made an effort to include more listening in my studies. I have neglected the spoken language and it is messing things up- it's just not natural to be able to read a language better than you hear it. 

I've been going through eThaiMusic's list of songs. I used to have trouble following along; now I'm pretty fluent (with the script, *not* comprehension.) The majority of the songs are bad love songs, but the upshot is they use a simple vocabulary and I am able to comprehend bits without much effort. Mostly though I'm concerned with tuning my ear to the spoken language. When I listen to colloquial Thai it's pretty opaque, which is really annoying.

Also a friend tuned me into Crunchy Roll, which has Thai movies with English subtitles. I'd only seen a few (6ixtynin9, Tears of the Black Tiger) through Netflix's paltry online selection, but they are damn helpful.

Also been trying to reach out and be more active online. I am currently in conversation with a girl from Bangkok, we're going to try some language exchange. I really have no clue how it will work, but it should be fun.

Still at the grammar and reading Doraemon. Read an entire story in one sitting today. But I've been so bad about studying vocab. I'm absorbing a trickle but really I need to get serious and learn some words.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pragmatic Particles

I've come up with a productive exercise- summarizing chapters from my reference grammar (A Reference Grammar of Thai, ARGT) by finding examples in my Doraemon manga (which is the only natural text I have which I can read.)

This post regards pragmatic particles, a topic I had previously pretty much ignored. Bad idea- these are intrinsic to the language. Chapter 15 of ARGT details 14 PPs. They are distinct from speech-level (politeness) and question particles

Since I don't use phonetic transcriptions, and they're a pain to type (all the accents), I'm going to stick with Thai, even though there's a lot of pronunciation variability. On some the initial consonant is sometimes dropped, meaning ล่ะ and น่ะ are both sometimes pronounced อ่ะ.

Also the variations listed in the reference grammar aren't exhaustive.
Also a general "I don't know what I'm doing" disclaimer applies to my translations.

General particles.
These work with statements/questions, and commands.

1. น่ะ / นะ / นา
Common ground. This particle is extremely common. When it's directly translated in ARGT, they use phrases like "okay?", "you know?", "isn't it?", "right?"
Apparently, the high tone "tends to solicit a response"; the low tone is more forceful.
หวังว่าคงถูกคนดีๆ มาเก็บไปนะ
"I hope they might be taken by a good person."

"What did you do?"

2. สิ / ซิ
"The primary function of this particle is to confirm information with some authority in tone."
This seems to be most common in commands and replies.

"Come help me grab it."

"Keep watching."

3. เลย
"Emphasizes the excessiveness of the situation as the speaker sees it"
I thought it was just an intensifier (like จัง) but I guess it's more subjective. It can also be used in commands.

"(You) sit around absent-minded every day."

"It's coming directly (at us)."

4. เชียว
Similar to เลย, but also can indicate surprise or suspicion-confirmation.

"I've raised it from when it was an egg."

5. ซะ
Derived from/shortened form of เสีย, and acts like an aspect marker... unless it's a command, then it's a "mild encourangement" PP.
"If you're hurt, then practice fooling some other people."

Information-oriented particles
These are limited to statements and questions.

6. ล่ะ / เล่า
"Elaboration request," usually used with questions.
"Presents!" (What'd you bring me?!)
"What fib could you think up?" (mockingly)
7. และ / แหละ
(This is where this gets confusing.)
This is derived from แล้ว, and when used with a verb/adjective, it has its original perfect/anterior aspectual usage.
But when used after a "verb/adjective phrase or a noun phrase", it indicates that the noun concept it follows is the "focused element" or the "sole alternative."

"If he isn't better, then it'll stay this way."

"So that we could flee those bombs."

8. ล่ะ / ละ / (and หละ ?)
Similar to #7 (and a homonym of #6), but conveys "the speaker's evaluation of the inevitability of an action."

"We need to go down into the nest."

(ARGT notes that while ล่ะ is derived from แล้ว, it has become a distinct word- this is an example of them co-existing.)

9. หรอก
Counter argument; correct assumption. Usually used with a negative statement.

"No, we don't have time to do it that way."

10. นี่
Discovery- points out a critical fact just discovered.

"Doraemon hasn't returned yet."

11. ไง
directing attention- to an object or fact

"(something) that will give me more strength."

12. แน่ะ
Similar to #11, but also used to emphasize "notable amounts" when there is a quantity expression.

"My friends are calling me."

(Since this sentence doesn't contain any quantity, I'm not sure if the "notable amount" meaning applies, but it would fit the context- "my friends are calling me a lot", or something like that.)

13. ล่ะมั้ง / มั้ง
"Maybe he already returned."

Action-oriented particles
These (well, ARGT only mentions one) are only used with commands.

14. ถอะ / เถอะ / เหอะ
Hortative ("lets")

"Let it go!"

"Let's go help!"

ARGT further details a common combination, นี่ + น่ะ, which is usually mushed together into:

15. (นี่ + น่ะ =) เนี้ย เนี่ย เงี้ย
"What's this!?"
I am now really sick of particles! Next: aspect (which I have mostly finished) and then probably question-word questions.