Thai has words that are similar to collective nouns in English, but they involve more precise rules of usage, they exist for more commonplace words, and they apply to singular as well as plural nouns. You might never need to refer to a pride of lions, but – depending on the context – you do have to refer to a lăŋ of bâan (one house or two-plus houses), and I couldn’t tell you what a “lăŋ” actually is, except in reference to “house,” just as I couldn’t define a pride without referring to “lions.”

Phaasăa Thai yâak kwàa (Thai language is more difficult) every day,” I said to my teacher and her colleague as I was leaving, using the word for “more” (kwàa) that I’d just learned. They smiled politely and paused before my teacher said, “Almost correct. We use kwàa only when we compare two things at the same time. If we’re comparing the same thing at two different times, we use a different word. Have a nice weekend!”

Author: cohn17

Photographer and baker of macarons.

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