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Vowel Panic, คำควบกล้ำ (kam Kuab Glam)


ninjat

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Hi,

I have a problem finding out where the Thai vowels belong. In some words two consonants share the same vowel and in other words each of the two consonants have their own vowel.

Example:

ประตู - bradoo, i.e. a shared vowel (ปร share ะ)

สนับสนุน - sanap sanun, i.e. two bonus vowels after each ส (if shared, it would be snap snun, สน would share first ั and then ุ)

My wife says the shared/non-shared vowel effect is called คำควบกล้ำ (kam kuab glam).

Can anyone explain how to see if a word uses shared vowels or not and what คำควบกล้ำ is? Or point to an article that explains it?

Thanks a lot.

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Hi,

I have a problem finding out where the Thai vowels belong. In some words two consonants share the same vowel and in other words each of the two consonants have their own vowel.

Example:

ประตู - bradoo, i.e. a shared vowel (ปร share ะ)

สนับสนุน - sanap sanun, i.e. two bonus vowels after each ส (if shared, it would be snap snun, สน would share first ั and then ุ)

My wife says the shared/non-shared vowel effect is called คำควบกล้ำ (kam kuab glam).

Can anyone explain how to see if a word uses shared vowels or not and what คำควบกล้ำ is? Or point to an article that explains it?

Thanks a lot.

These are called consonant clusters when there are two consonants written sequentially with no vowel sound pronounced between them.

Unfortunately, the answer is that you will just have to memorize it. But that said, it's not quite as bad as that sounds. There are certain consonant clusters that occur very frequently throughout Thai language. For example:

  • พล- "pl-" พลอย, พลี
  • พร- "pr-" as in พระ, พร้อม, พรม
  • ประ- "bpra-" ประเทศ, ประโยชน์, ประสงค์
  • กระ- "gra-" กระจก, กระดาษ
  • คว- "kw-' ความ, ควาย
  • คล- "kl-" คลอง, คลอด

There are more examples, and after seeing enough of them you'll get to recognize them.

Making matters a bit tricky, there are some words or syllables that are spelled the same, but pronounced as a consonant cluster in one case, while not in the other. For example, the word พลัง ("pa-lang" - energy, strength) vs. พลัด ("plat" - fall, trip and fall).

While not a consonant cluster but exhibiting a similar difference in pronunciation, the word สระ has two meanings, each with a different pronunciation. When pronounced like สะระ "sa-ra" it means "vowel," but when pronounced สะ "sa" it means a pond or pool of water. In the latter case, the ร "r" is simply not pronounced.

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Hi,

I have a problem finding out where the Thai vowels belong. In some words two consonants share the same vowel and in other words each of the two consonants have their own vowel.

Example:

ประตู - bradoo, i.e. a shared vowel (ปร share ะ)

สนับสนุน - sanap sanun, i.e. two bonus vowels after each ส (if shared, it would be snap snun, สน would share first ั and then ุ)

My wife says the shared/non-shared vowel effect is called คำควบกล้ำ (kam kuab glam).

Can anyone explain how to see if a word uses shared vowels or not and what คำควบกล้ำ is? Or point to an article that explains it?

Thanks a lot.

Listen to the wife she is right. You don't have to use both ควบ กล้ำ it describes the fact that two letters are paired, I hate the word cluster it seems to be more than two, (also reminds me of that well known bad situation called a 'cluster <deleted>') There are only three letters in second position ร ล ว which helps. They are all in the dictionary of course so your knowledge will grow. ทร pronounced ซ most of the time ทราบ and words like เสร็จ มิตร where the ร is silent, they are all called อกษรควบ

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สนับสนุน - sanap sanun, i.e. two bonus vowels after each ส (if shared, it would be snap snun, สน would share first ั and then ุ)

"Bonus vowels" is certainly a novel way to express that. Actually, what occurs between the ส and น is not really considered to be a bona fide vowel, with full membership in the vowel pantheon. Phonetically, it is a vowel sound - and dictionary pronunciation guides show it as สะ-หฺนับ-สะ-หฺนุน - but it's just a vocalization that must naturally occur, because in Thai you can't pronounce ส and น together the same way you do in English, e.g. "snap."

Perhaps a hypothetical case would be if you saw a word in Roman alphabet that began with the consonants "lp" - in English, it is not possible to pronounce them together. Sorry for that ridiculous example, but it is meant to make the point that some consonants, in Thai, need a vocalization between them. There are many Thai consonant combinations like that, often referred to as "non-conforming initial consonant clusters." Don't be put off by that esoteric phrase: it just means two consonants that cannot be pronounced together, without a "virtual" - or "bonus" - vowel in between them. (Some may liken it to a "schwa" in Western languages, which may be a useful way to consider it.)

I think this is one of the most baffling things for beginners (at least it was for me), because it is often not adequately explained from the very beginning by teachers and learning texts. Even very good Thai teachers don't necessarily think about it, because it is such a fundamentally natural characteristic of speech, and thus they may not be attuned to the frustration of farangs who are looking for that vowel that they clearly hear, but is never written (nor clearly explained).

I had a teacher once who cleared up all my confusion on this by saying: "Maybe you should think of it as one-fourth of a vowel: if you consider า to be the full vowel, and -ะ to be the half vowel, then that sound that confounds you could be like one-fourth of a vowel..."

She was just winging it, right off the top of her head, because I was pressing her to explain it, and it seemed clear to me that she had never had to explain it before. But, in that moment, I felt that she had unlocked one of the most-important secrets of Thai language; it made perfect sense to me. :o

Later, I discovered this: http://www.thai-language.org/id/830221

And I wish that I had read that when I was getting started.

Finally, it occurs to me that one might consider a couple of other reasons why that sound could not be represented as -ะ: first of all, it would really clutter up written Thai, as one might imagine; and second, it would change the tone of the syllable, by making it into two syllables. But those are moot points, I guess, because in fact it is not really considered to be a vowel, anyway, in spite of what foreign learners may think... :D

Anyway, I am rather fond of "bonus vowel." Perhaps that term should be included into some teaching methods.

Cheers.

Edited by mangkorn
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I might add that, as a Spanish speaker, I understand this whole idea in the same way that we can't begin a syllable with an "s" sound.

Most Spanish speakers pronounce the English word "stop" as "estop" - because that's the way we say such words in "espanol." (If you hear most latinos try to say "Spanish," it will sound like "Espanish.")

The point is, you just have to attune your ear to the pronunciation of any language, whatever language it is. In Thai, you can't say "snap," it has to be "sa-nap."

(By the way, "estop" is a real English word, from the Latin, albeit only used in legalese these days. Somewhere along the way, the "e" got lost in common usage.) :o

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Oh I forgot that you asked about those words as well, already very well explained. I just want to point out that the name in Thai is 'leading consonent' อักษรนำ I mention it to keep it simple. You may have noticed ห & อ leading where those letters are silent and only govern tone.

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(By the way, "estop" is a real English word, from the Latin, albeit only used in legalese these days. Somewhere along the way, the "e" got lost in common usage.)

No. Estop came into English via Old French, whereas stop was borrowed on the continent and is attested in Old English forstoppian 'plug (the ear)'.

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Are there many words in Thai that have no vowels whatsoever.

In my limited vocabulary I can only think of one which is

ตลก

Are there loads or are they quite rare?

JJ.

ถนน Of course, you do not mean, "there are no vowels whatsoever"; rather, you mean, the vowels associated with the word are not overtly written. There are two vowel sounds in ถนน, as there are in ตลก. In fact, both words have the same two vowel sounds!

I can think of a name which, at first blush, seems to have no overt vowels: ดร. นววรรณ พันธุเมธา

Dr. Nawawan Phanthumetha is the author of several books on Thai grammar and expression. Her first name, apparently, has no vowels. However, both the first and second consonants when spoken are followed by the vowel /a/ and in the third syllable, "วรรณ", the two letters "รร" are the equivalent of /a/. If I am mispronouncing the professor's name, please correct me.

Any other examples?

Edited by DavidHouston
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Are there many words in Thai that have no vowels whatsoever.

In my limited vocabulary I can only think of one which is

ตลก

Are there loads or are they quite rare?

JJ.

ถนน Of course, you do not mean, "there are no vowels whatsoever"; rather, you mean, the vowels associated with the word are not overtly written. There are two vowel sounds in ถนน, as there are in ตลก. In fact, both words have the same two vowel sounds!

I can think of a name which, at first blush, seems to have no overt vowels: ดร. นววรรณ พันธุเมธา

Dr. Nawawan Phanthumetha is the author of several books on Thai grammar and expression. Her first name, apparently, has no vowels. However, both the first and second consonants when spoken are followed by the vowel /a/ and in the third syllable, "วรรณ", the two letters "รร" are the equivalent of /a/. If I am mispronouncing the professor's name, please correct me.

Any other examples?

ณ ธ บ่ These three have the vowel อะ also.

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I came across this village name while out on my Sunday bike ride: พรสวรรค์ The พรส part of the name threw me for a loop......I had to ask a villager how to pronounce it........it's porn (พร) sa (ส) porn-sa-wan

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Are there many words in Thai that have no vowels whatsoever.

Are there loads or are they quite rare?

There are loads - all the words fitting the pattern CoC for starters, e.g. นก [H]nok 'bird', กบ [L]kop 'frog', ฝน [R]fon 'rain', ตก [L]tok 'fall', คน [M]khon 'person'.

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