When I’m feeling down, I go overboard on movies and dramas. Actually since I started watching K- and J-dramas my movie watching has slackened a bit but once in a while I do get around to watching some good ones (e.g. The King’s Speech!) Anyway, today I watched a Thai movie: สิ่งเล็กๆที่เรียกว่ารัก (A Crazy Little Thing Called Love) and it cheered me up considerably!
Aside from the plot (which is simple, sweet, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside), one of the best things about this movie was just the language it was in – Thai. It was my first time hearing the Thai language and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess I thought it would sound more like Vietnamese but to my untrained ear, the tones sounded more like Chinese? (I don’t know. I could be wrong – the only Vietnamese I’ve really heard is when my friends talk to their parents. Interestingly, I know that Vietnamese has a lot of words that have Chinese roots but a Vietnamese friend of mine said that Chinese was very difficult for her because the tones were different.) If I ever decided to learn Thai, the tones and pronunciation would be a big problem for me. Most native Thai words are monosyllabic and differ only in tone and distinctions in pronunciation.
Even though this is the only exposure I’ve had to Thai, I already feel attached to it because of its linguistic roots. The Thai language is related to Sanskrit, Pali (the “official” language of Theravada Buddhism – the Buddhism that originated in India from Hinduism), and Khmer (Cambodian, which also has roots in Sanskrit and Pali). The Thai script, which I think is one of the prettiest scripts I’ve ever seen, is derivative of Brahmic script – the “great grandfather” of many South and Southeast Asian scripts. Take a look at these examples:
മലയാളലിപി (Malayalam – spoken in Kerala, India)
ಕನ್ನಡ ಲಿಪಿ (Kannada – spoken in Karnataka, India)
What is interesting is that the writing for all three of these languages is derived from “Southern Brahmic” script. And actually, Malayalam and Thai are actually one generation closer because Thai’s parent script Khmer shares a parent script with Malayalam. This might not be as surprising as it sounds; the spread of Buddhism from India to these parts of Southeast Asia probably facilitated the spread of its script as well.
I don’t know what it is about the history of languages that is so fascinating to me… It might be because the evolution of language is so similar to the evolution of science. They are both such interesting topics and they both take my mind off graduate school woes!