Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Redupli-upli-cations - Double Trouble in Thai

Reduplication, in linguistics, is a morphological process by which the root or stem of a word, or part of it, is repeated. Wiki Not unlike ha, ha, ha :) bye-bye, choo-choo, night-night, no-no, pee-pee, poo-poo....and other forms.

In Thai we know this function is indicated by 'ๆ' (ไม้ยมก) mái-​yá~​mók. However it takes on several different forms.

After leaving comments on Josh Sager’s blog (on a post about reduplication, I'd first visited quite a few months ago), I found a book on Google (via WLT) ‘A reference grammar of Thai’ and spent hours reading... what was available online. Reduplication it seems is more diverse and fluster worthy, than I initially imagined.

Most of the information below was sourced from Reference Grammar of Thai and past learning, along with some interesting publications from the shelves of our global village.

1. Simple Reduplication – emphasizing as in 'very' or 'more'

มากๆ /mâak mâak/ much much - very much
ช้าๆ / cháh-​cháh / slow slow – slowly, more slow

2. Softening or Generalisation Reduplication - can lessen the subject to the equivalent of the English suffix –ish. It can also indicate an approximation.

น้ำเย็นๆ / nám yen yen / water + cold + cold = coolish water 1
เก่าๆ / kàw kàw / old (things) + old (things) = oldish 2
อยู่แถวาๆ สะพาน / yòo tháae tháae sà-pahn / is + around + around + bridge = is around the (area of the) bridge 3 *

3. Simple Reduplication - singular into a plural or a collective

เด็กๆ / dèk-​dèk / children
หนังสือดีๆ / năng-sŭe dii dii /good books

OK, that last one really stumped me, because to me it reads 'very good book', singular!

Note from Thai Language Wiki

"Noun + stative verb reduplicated = Depending on the context, reduplication of the stative verb may result in, well, any of the above." ^

4. Simple Reduplication – to indicate the succession of sounds or events

พรำๆ / pram-pram / sound of continuous falling rain
ซู่ๆ /sôo-sôo / sound of rain
ติ๊กๆ / dtík-dtík / sound of clock ticking

(And then of course we see it used in informal settings (chats/forums), in multiples ๆๆๆๆๆๆๆๆ and I presume that it’s sort of the equivalent to !!!!!!!!!!!! in English.)

So how do we know which of the 4 effects (above) the reduplication symbol will have on the word it follows?

I've asked my Thai friends and according to them, we/they can''s one of those things they 'just know'. However, this might be a start (?) but I’ve yet to give the theory a run for its money.6

And then there are reduplications that don’t use the symbol, because the words repeated are not identical.

5. Complex Reduplication – literally a high tonal emphasis on the first word

ดี๊ดี  /dée-dee / good good / very good
ด๊ำดำ/ dám-dam / black black / very black 4

5.a. high tonal emphasis on the second of three words

เดินเดิ๊นเดิน / dern dérn dern / walk walk walk = continue walking 5
นอนน๊อนนอน / nawn náwn nawn / sleep sleep sleep = get much sleep

6. Alliterative Reduplication – (word play) Alliteration - The repetition of consonants at the beginning of two or more words immediately succeeding each other, or at short intervals.

จริง / jing / really – จริงอ้ง / jing-jong / seriously
หม้อ / mâw / pot - หม้อเหม้อ / mâw-mêe / pots and things

7. Symantic reduplication – two different words with the same meaning, said consecutively and equal the same meaning.

สวยงาม / sǒoay-​ngahm / beautiful + beautiful. Just like we might say 'pretty beautiful'.
ชัยชนะ / chai-​chá-ná / victory + win
เล็กน้อย / lék-​náwy / small + a little

If you've made it all the way down to the bottom of this post you're either an insomniac, bored out of your skull or ridiculously entheusiastic about reduplication.

Either way, I'll leave you on a lighter note with an English version of reduplication: shmaby, apple shmapple, cheers shmeers! 

And without repeating myself :) I'd love to hear what you think/know or if I have it all horribly wrong.

*แถวา – I couldn’t find this word in any other reference materials


  1. Enjoyed this very much. I had been wondering what the linguistics term was for repetition, so thanks. Here's a list of words that use ๆ :


  2. @AnonymousGene,thanks for the link. It formed part of Stray and my Thai lesson this morning. Some really handy and interesting uses of ๆ.


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