Thai Homophones And Homographs

Isn’t it funny how our interests change over the years? As a teenager when I still went to high school I never spent nearly this much time worrying about grammatical concepts such as homophones and homographs. I was never interested in Grammar or language at all back then, but now I really love it and I can’t wait to dive in and discover something new every day. Today I would like to take you on an excursion with me into the infinite world of homophones and homographs. You wanna dive into it with me?

Before we start now I want to take the chance and congratulate you on your achievement so far, because the Thai language is not the most common one to learn and to be fair, not the easiest either as you may have discovered already.
On a good note, I can tell you that Thai grammar is more straightforward than English grammar. The basic sentence structure in Thai is similar; we have the subject, followed by the verb, and then the object.

With English however, there are numerous rules to be memorized and considered to create flawless sentences, which of course rather adds to the frustration of learning it than to the motivational part. What’s amazing with Thai is that you will be able to construct grammatically correct sentences by just learning a principle or two, and learning the correct pronunciation in Thai.

Don’t get discouraged if you’ll come across some difficulties in understanding, for sure there will be issues coming up during learning, but compared to other languages like Portuguese or French, I bet you can easily pick up the rules of Thai grammar.
There are very few fixed rules. In the Thai language, compared to others like Mandarin or Korean, the meaning of most words is based on tone. Depending on the speaker’s tone, a word or phrase can mean something different.

That’s a little bit of a challenge, but Thais can usually detect pronunciation issues and still understand what you are trying to say because much of the meaning is also drawn from the context of the conversation.

You may already have realized that both languages, Thai and English (and other languages as well, not all but some) have homophones and homographs. Maybe at this point, you are already wondering what on earth am I talking about here?. Is it soup? Or a new age movement?

What Are Homophones And Homographs At All?

Let me bring you some light into that dark tunnel of confusion.

1. Homophones

The word homophone has its roots in the Greek language. It comes from the word homos that means “the same” and phonos means “sound”.

Sometimes when a word is pronounced it seems similar to another word but actually it has a different spelling and a different meaning as well; such as bear and bare in English for example. They are very similar in pronunciation but are completely different in spelling as well as in their meaning.

So remember this as a rule:

Homophones (คำพ้องเสียง /kam pɔ́ɔng sǐang/) are words that sound the same but are spelled different and have different meanings.

Here are a few examples of English homophones:

  • flower, flour
  • right, write
  • made, maid
  • peace, piece

Thai has the same concept. Take a look at some examples:

Tam

ทำ = to do, to make

ธรรม = Dhamma, fair

An example:

แม่ฟังธรรมตอนทำอาหาร /mɛ̂ɛ fang tam dtɔɔn tam aa-hǎan/

Mom listens to Dhamma while she is cooking.

Rót

รถ = car

รส = taste, flavor

รด = pour, to water, to spill

An example:

เขากินไอศกรีมรสช็อกโกแลตอยู่ในรถ ดูพ่อรดน้ำต้นไม้

/káo gin ice-cream rót chocolate yùu nai rót, duu pɔ̂ɔ rót náam dtôn-mái/

He is eating a chocolate flavored ice-cream in the car and watching father waters plants.

Pan

พัน = the number 1,000

พันธ์ = to bind, fasten together

พันธุ์ = relatives, kin, breed

Sǎn
สัน = backbone, knife-edge

สรรค์ = to build

สรร = to choose, select

2. Homographs

The word homograph comes from the Greek word homos meaning “the same” and graph means “to write”. This is used extensively in language.

Let’s for example take the word “Read”. This could be the present simple “I read a book every day”, or in the past simple “I read a book yesterday.”

So remember this as a rule:

Homographs (คำพ้องรูป /kam pɔ́ɔng rûup/) are words that are spelled the same but have two or more different meanings and sometimes different pronunciation as well.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of English homographs:

  • address (place of residence, and a manner of speaking to someone)
  • close (to shut, and to mean something that is near something else; in proximity to)
  • desert (a large body of sand, and to leave or abandon something)
  • present (current, a gift, to be in attendance)

In the Thai language again it is the same concept:

Pǒm

ผม = means “hair” and also “I/me” for male speakers

Dtaa

ตา = means “eye” and also “grandfather”

Yen

เย็น = means “cool” and also “early evening”

So Now Let’s Summarise What Has We Learned. Shall we?

We now know that homophones are two or more words pronounced the same way but differ in meaning or spelling or even both, whereas homographs are words that are spelled the same but have two or more different meanings. A good helper to memorize it is if you think about homophone as in ‘phone’ like talking on the phone = pronunciation (sound the same).

1. homophone > คำพ้องเสียง > คำใกล้เคียง

2. homograph > คำพ้องรูป

Got It?!

I hope you liked our little excursion into the depth of homophones and homographs. If you are keen to learn more, either as a preparation for your travels or for a new job abroad, whatever you want to learn you can do it with the Ling Thai app. Give it a try, maybe even today! Like a daily workout for the body, it is important to also strengthen the mind and keeping it fit. This can be done best by learning and practicing a language. You will see, the more you practice, the easier it becomes and in no time you should feel more confident to use your newfound Thai skills.

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