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Who does this dog belong to legally?

The art and science of translation to or from Thai, with examples

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Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby Thomas » Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:20 pm

Perhaps this topic concerns the question of translation techniques if you are doing the job to translate Thai in a third language else than English ... not sure, but some thoughts:

Within a site dedicated to the exchange of native spoken languages X and Y I raised (as native German speaker) questions to (native) Thai speakers what's about translating, or learning how to use, Thai question particles into German. My question(s) started with a link:

Who does this dog belong to legally?.

I concluded, in this Thai-German/German-Thai forum, that I had to learn that 'whom' is considered as somwhat antiquated at least in AE, and that a sentence such as "To whom does this dog belong legally.", rather, would cause some applauses in Dallas, Texas although it sounds like European, medieval English...

I expanded a little bit further with Thai interrogative particles, and their translation into German, with a quotation of a translation as follows:

กล้วยไม้เป็นทรัพยากรธรรมชาติที่มีคุณค่าความสวยงามด้านจิตใจ
"Orchids are a natural resource whose value derives from their beauty;..."

I concluded, in that blog, that I've learned via this translation that a) Orchids are the rods of banana trees, and b) "Whose'/wessen, or deren, is in Thai ที่มี".

A Thai student replied on this (in German language): "กล้วยไม้ is orchid and a term completely different from กล้วย, banana, and ไม้, rod. ที่มี can be translated as 'which' (English) as well.

ที่มี in the sentence above can be translated, unambigously and nicely, into 'deren' in German language. My question here is:

Is "whose" actually entirely correct English?

I'm asking this since orchids are no human beings. I assume that ที่มี will not translate into 'which' in English, rather, into 'which have' (actually it is written "which have value" [for/due to/deriving from] ความ XYZ.).
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby David and Bui » Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:34 pm

From the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary:

"Since neither which nor that has a possessive case, whose has long been pressed into duty as a substitute.

< … a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. — Deuteronomy 8:9 (Authorized Version)>
< … that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste brought death into the world … — John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667>

. A number of 18th century grammarians took to wondering about the propriety of such use, since whose is related to who, and stones, hills, and trees are not persons. But some of them also noticed that using whose made a more straightforward or even a more elegant sentence than the alternative construction with of which did. This characteristic probably explains why good writers have gone on using whose in spite of the grammarians.

< … a precaution whose necessity was demonstrated a while back … — Lewis Mumford, New Yorker, 6 Apr. 1957>
<I can see its lights through my window, whose sash rattles. — John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, 1989>
< … my home of Philo, Illinois, a tiny collection of corn silos and war-era Levittown homes whose native residents did little but sell crop insurance and nitrogen fertilizer and herbicide … — David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, 1997>
<The seas are filled with one-celled calcifying plants … whose seasonal blooms turn thousands of square miles of ocean a milky hue. — Elizabeth Kolbert, National Geographic, April 2011>

Almost no modern handbook disparages this use of whose, but many people still believe that there must be something wrong with it. There is not. The belief that whose should not be used of inanimate things is a superstition.

Origin of WHOSE
Middle English whos, genitive of 1who, 1what
First Known Use: before 12th century (sense 1)"
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby Thomas » Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:55 pm

David and Bui wrote:Almost no modern handbook disparages this use of whose, but many people still believe that there must be something wrong with it. There is not. The belief that whose should not be used of inanimate things is a superstition.

Origin of WHOSE
Middle English whos, genitive of 1who, 1what
First Known Use: before 12th century (sense 1)"


David, thank you very much for this clarity. It helps a lot. I'm not superstitious, rather, my question shows the limitation of my English grammar, or term, knowledge.

I did not want to use, or abuse, this 'Who does this dog belong legally?' (which could, to come back to 'whose', also be said as "Whose dog is this legally?") thread to discuss English grammar.

But ... I would like to get some input from visitors of Tl.com who are not native English speakers. Translation Techniques.

The best Thai dictionary I know in this world is the Thai-English dictionary of Tl.com. Since English is, more or less, lingua franca of the (Western) world, no problem should derive. But my knowledge of English grammar, and vocabulary (+/- phonetics, a minor problem only sometimes) has limitations. And I'm aware that this becomes more and more a problem.

As you know I bought an expensive Thai grammar in German language. I'm still unsure how reliable this work is (as to the short part on Thai letters I feel that I will not learn from it). I did so while expecting once having explained Thai grammar in my native language will help a lot.

What are the experiences of non-native English speakers using English books and web sites while struggeling with Thai (and, like I, English) grammar?
Last edited by Thomas on Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby David and Bui » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:16 pm

I apologize in advance to R2d2 for responding; he has requested responses from non-English-native speakers, and, I must confess, I am not one of the non's. However, I do wish to express my full agreement with R2d2, if my understanding is correct.

I believe that the Thai grammar is sui generis and English parts of speech and grammatical conventions are not sufficient to describe how Thai is constructed, spoken, and written. Therefore, Thai Grammars need to be constructed which reflect the unique nature of the language, what its parts of speech are, and how Thai words and phrases are put together to create expressions and communications.

In fact, I have seen several of these grammar constructs which include Richard Noss's "Thai Reference Grammar" (See http://www.thai-language.com/FSI/FSI%20 ... rammar.pdf) and Shoichi Isawaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom, "A Reference Grammar of Thai" (See http://www.amazon.com/Reference-Grammar ... ngkaphirom).

The grammars presented in these books, among others, look strange to us and they require significant efforts to comprehend. But, nothing is easy and the benefits to be gained are worth the efforts expended.
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby pensive » Wed Jan 15, 2014 2:31 am

Two things. One, I disagree. Thai is not so unlike English as to require a different grammatical approach. Further, I cannot imagine it being illuminating to read about Thai grammar in Thai.

Two. If I were R2D2 I would not be too concerned about the grammar book in German. Yes, it may have mistakes and, yes, it may not make sense at times, but you can get a broad understanding of the language in your mother tongue. You then need to follow up by reading other grammar books to gain confidence and to correct misapprehensions resulting from the first book.

Note that research shows that parents correct few grammar errors in children. That is, it is not so important for language instruction to be perfect.
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby Tgeezer » Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:15 am

r2d2 wrote:กล้วยไม้เป็นทรัพยากรธรรมชาติที่มีคุณค่าความสวยงามด้านจิตใจ
"Orchids are a natural resource whose value derives from their beauty;..."

I concluded, in that blog, that I've learned via this translation that a) Orchids are the rods of banana trees, and b) "Whose'/wessen, or deren, is in Thai ที่มี".

A Thai student replied on this (in German language): "กล้วยไม้ is orchid and a term completely different from กล้วย, banana, and ไม้, rod. ที่มี can be translated as 'which' (English) as well.

ที่มี in the sentence above can be translated, unambigously and nicely, into 'deren' in German language. My question here is:

Is "whose" actually entirely correct English?

I'm asking this since orchids are no human beings. I assume that ที่มี will not translate into 'which' in English, rather, into 'which have' (actually it is written "which have value" [for/due to/deriving from] ความ XYZ.).

Like you I prefer to make every word count, and I know that you know all this already but to reitterate:
กล้วยไม้เป็นทรัพยากรธรรมชาติที่มีคุณค่าความสวยงามด้านจิตใจ

In this statement กล้วยไม้ has become ทรัพยากรทรรมชาติ, ที่ is the relative pronoun making the preceding sentence the subject, คุณค่า value. It could be left there but the writer wants us to understand what sort of value is that the same as saying from where it comes?
Translating สวยงามด้านจิตใจ as 'beauty' maybe enough in English and I don't know why not in Thai.
I see ความสวยงามด้านจิตใจ as all one thought qualifying คุณค่า. ด้านจิตใจ being the most important showing that there is emotion involved in the คุณค่า . It will do your heart good and therein lies its value. However if ด้านจิตใจ were not there it would be as good as far as I am concerned.
Can anyone explain ด้านจิตใจ?

On the placement of the pronoun, does anyone see a difference:
กล้วยไม้ที่เป็นทรัพยากรธรรมชาติมีคุณด่า
This works for English and most Thai verbs but perhaps not with เป็น which is a special verb meaning 'is' or = .
กล้วยไม้ที่สวยงามเป็นทรัพยากรธรรมชาติมีคุณค่าด้านจิตใจ
กล้วยไม้สวยงามเป็นทรัพยากรธรรมชาติที่มีคุณค่าในทางจิตใจ

I think that if you can get the gist of Thai the rest you have to imagine, and English is too precise to argue about, this probably applies to German also.

I don't think that Pensive is right when he says that reading Thai grammar doesn't help, I think that it does because it means that you don't need your own grammar to learn Thai. Just take a look at the link provided by Pirin on the topic of ผู้ you will see that where Thai suggests English it doesn't make grammatical sense to us. As Pensive says grammar is not so important. Thai has been put into a straight jacket by Trying to fit into English grammar.

eg. แสวงหาทางเลือกและประเมินทางเลือก ( search for alternatives and evaluations) should be (search for and evaluate alternatives) the fact that to a Thai native there is no difference must mean something, even if we can't identify what that something is!
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby Thomas » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:59 am

Tgeezer wrote: Thai has been put into a straight jacket by Trying to fit into English grammar.


Khun Tgeezer, all what you told is very helpful for me. So let me say, initially, thank you very much for your post. A reply from my side, however, could become a little bit longer.

Few words to my own backgrounds: My wife is khon Thai. I'm in Thailand only a month each second or third year. We live in Germany (but own ground and have family also in Thailand). Among one another we speak English in most instances. She has learned it while studying in Bangkok. I speak it partially for professional reasons (checking translations from English to German in the field of medicine, reading reports on clinical trials etc.). We mix, if we think it is clearer, into this special English some German and Thai terms. My sister-in-law also stays currently in Germany and has visited a school for learning German. Sometimes I helped her but meanwhile her German is better than my limited Thai so that we speak slow but clear German (her English is more limited than that of my wife). Sometimes she was sad that her Turkish or Syrian classmates made quicker progresses ...

With these backgrounds two remarks on my feelings as to the "straight jacket":

1. About 10 years ago, staying in Thailand, I really was shocked :o :twisted: hearing from children in Isan that in their school they were learning อักษรอังกฤษ. It took me a while to understand what they were learning actually in school. Once I undestood the meaning I immagined they would travel soon to Colombia and were asked whether they could use a letter set else than Thai, and they would reply: Of course: English letters. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: And then: "How those yankees are writing?" (((Same problem with a completly other face: Recently a German politician stated: "Finally the EU is speaking German." What he meant was, supposed by me, that some of the finicial ministries of the member states (mainly in the South) did make policy more like the German finance minister [in a nutshell "austerity"]. The diplomatic damage this sentence caused was enormous. :D )))

2. I'm currently visiting a blog intended to support exchange of native speaker pairs (i.e. a Chinese woman wants to improve her Italian for her visits of the opera in Shanghai while an Italian man wants to learn more about Chinese cooking, and language). I exchange there a little bit in German with khon Thai learning and/or speaking German. Within this blog a Thai lady posted (in English) the following: "Could you raise your questions in English? We are speaking English!" :geek: :geek: :geek: I replied her in English ... (((Something like: "Before I do this here in this blog I start to learn Chinese cooking using a Chinese cookbook."))) Sorry, but I'm all but a nationalist but a realist: "We" (replace khon Thai by khon yoeraman) speak English as well and are according to international statistics the largest population of (self assessed) English speakers in a country where the/one of the official language(s) is not English. Better are only our Western- and Northern Germanic languages speaking neighbours ... but their numbers are smaller.

What I precisely want to say with # 2? I feel that the message of the Thai lady was: "We [the upper class of Thailand] are sooooo international." As a barbarian inhabitant of the forests and swamps of Germania (or Deutsch-Isan-esia?) I have difficulties *not* to claim that vice-export-world-champion Germany is international. If "we" would not speak Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, or Spanish, ... Turkish, Russian ... relevant parts of "our" industry would suffer dramatically. Rather, in some fields it may even be fully justified to claim international leadership (a stupid field which comes into my mind: European, South Amercian, African, and Asian football/soccer ... and the winner is ........ Bayern München :lol: ). I do not want to say: Learn German! Rather: i) My brother made often the joke (in times before the fall of the iron curtain): The pessimist learns Russian, the optimist learns English! ii) Daimler/Mercedes once was advertising, within Germany, with the slogan: "We can all except high German!" Several decades later ... what to say? Yes, English is still (?) lingua Franca of the (Western-) world. No objections to this. But I do not understand the Thai lady claiming to be international by being so un-diplomatic. Diagnosis: Symptoms of "straight jacket". ... In contrast to Mercedes I cannot all but some high German... And with the Thai lady I'm not saying "THE Thais", rather, all other Thai friends in this blog are there because they need, or want, to learn German for this or another reason.

And now: Full stop as to "straight jacket".

As to Khun Pirin and the postings at About the origin of ผู้: This is a quite good example for a) I'm fully aware that Tl.com is clearly for the language pair Thai-English (and according to my assessment the best source *in the world* available for those means) b) my problems causing to open this thread (in essence raising the question of translation technique of Lithuanian into Russian via English).

Tgeezer wrote:บุรุษ is the male สตรี is the female.

Tgeezer wrote:
Aulok wrote:Hi. Very pleased to meet you guys here again!
BTW, I guess บุรุษผู้หนึ่ง means "a real man" and ทุกผู้ทุกนาม means "every and each man". Is ผู้ still used in other Thai idioms or set phrases like these examples?
Many thanks!

ผู้ is the polite way to say คน isn't it? บุรุษผูหนึ่ง is ผู้ชายคนหนึ่ง 'a man'. สตรีคนหนึ่ง would be ผู้หญิงคนหนึ่ง 'a woman'.


First, your Thai is much more advanced than mines. Second, via this thread I learned the term บุรุษ (and สตรี). That the etymology of both is PaliSanskrit is evident. The term ผู้, in contrast, is well known to me. Khun Aulok was not asking for the meaning of บุรุษผู้หนึ่ง or ทุกผู้ทุกนาม (also new knowledge: name, English and Name, German, are in Sanskrit nAma - interesting). He/she mentioned these, to me not every days, terms as examples ("BTW") for a better understanding of his/her question, i.e. About the origin of ผู้.

Whether บุรุษผู้หนึ่ง means 'a real man' or 'a man' only --- not so interesting for me.

The problem reminds me in 2 number one songs of Herbert Grönemeyer, Männer (men) and Mensch (human being). The text (as well as the music) differ. From a genetic point of view men (of the species human being) should have an y-chromosome. A human being is ... having in the cells genetic material of homo sapiens mixed with some trace of homo errectus neandertaliensis, or simply something that once was classified by scientists as 'homo xyz'. The song "Männer" tries to give some answers to the question what a "real man", or men in general (those with an y-chromosome) is: A man becomes blue at birth, likes to smoke pipes and to cough thereafter, he is outside hard but inside very, very นิ่ม). The way to produce # 1 songs. The definition of "Mensch" differs slightly from "Männer" (men) in the corresponding song. A human being is a human being because he/she/it can laugh, sing, dance, forget, remember, "verdrängen" ...

(((I had a teacher of history. He had a speech defect. He could not pronounce a -sch- (German) = /sh/ (English). He replaced it by (German) /ch/. He claimed once: One of the benefits of the French revolution was that it became a fundamental human right: "Alle Männchen (replacing the term 'Menschen' due to his speech defect) sind gleich!" The meaning of the sentence (with the speech deficit) is: "All little men are the same!" I would agree with this statement - except for the claim that it is a fundamental human right, or that it was caused by the French revolution.)))

บุรุษผู้หนึ่ง: How the y-chromosome comes into this term while translating it as 'a man'?
Last edited by Thomas on Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby pensive » Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:06 am

Tgeezer wrote: I don't think that Pensive is right when he says that reading Thai grammar doesn't help, I think that it does because it means that you don't need your own grammar to learn Thai. Just take a look at the link provided by Pirin on the topic of ผู้ you will see that where Thai suggests English it doesn't make grammatical sense to us. As Pensive says grammar is not so important. Thai has been put into a straight jacket by Trying to fit into English grammar.

I didn't write anything like that. Simply that Thai grammar in Thai is not very helpful. This does not mean that Thai grammar is not helpful. I don't agree with *any* of your remarks. The really stupid grinding on about English in Thai is, really, a bit wearing.
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby bifftastic » Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:15 am

Thai grammar in Thai is not helpful? What language is it helpful in then?

I don't understand.
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Re: Who does this dog belong to legally?

Postby Thomas » Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:15 am

bifftastic wrote:Thai grammar in Thai is not helpful? What language is it helpful in then?

I don't understand.


The meaning could be a Thai grammar in Thai language such as หลักภาษาไทย by กำชัย ทองหล่อ. If so, I disagree and, rather, support the words of the book review.

pensive wrote:... Further, I cannot imagine it being illuminating to read about Thai grammar in Thai.

Two. If I were R2D2 I would not be too concerned about the grammar book in German. Yes, it may have mistakes and, yes, it may not make sense at times, but you can get a broad understanding of the language in your mother tongue.


As to the first part: It was illuminating for me to read about Thai letters in the lak phasa Thai by Thonglo. Actually, I understood the rules of akson Thai not earlier then I found the RID online, and could read the phonetic and etymological entries of the RID. The period before? "If in a semi-half true pseodocluster, consisting in a high and low consonant, ... then the tone of the first syllable ... and the tone of the second syllable..." I.e. a chaos of terminology in other languages else than Thai.

What I read about Thai letters in the German grammar quoted is simply *wrong* - according to Thai and Western standards. On the other hand I hope that this work will help me very much understanding Thai word and sentence structur better than reading about this topic in English. Here I fully agree with khun pensive.
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