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Role of Pali in Thailand

PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2014 11:28 pm
by Richard Wordingham
I'm responding to a question Thomas (was R2D2) asked in Leaving out/omit e.g. .... เป็น.

Thomas wrote:a) The comprehensibleness of Pali (spoken and in text books) in Thailand is high? My assumption is yes with the argument that the number of (loan) terms in Thai language with Pali roots in the fiel of faith is high.

I don't think many people understand Pali in Thailand. How well would a typical German physician understand a text in Latin or Greek? The coining of words of Latin and Greek origin is done with a dictionary - and the scientific names of biological taxa are riddled with bad Greek.
Thomas wrote:b) A conflict (or only minor problem) comparable to Luther/protestanism around liturgical language Latin vs. vernacular never played a role in the Theravada buddhism of Thailand?

I think Pali is still seen to have magical properties, so the issue doesn't arise.
Thomas wrote:c) I assume that a Thai monk will study Pali in a way comparable to a catholic priest once he has decided to become a priest (or comparable to the fact that Latin simply was the language of catholic monks). Is this correct?!

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From what I can tell, most of the studying by Thai monks is done in Thai. It seems that nowadays the international language of Theravada monks is English, not Pali. In a way, that worries me, because I could see a use for a Pali locale for displaying Pali text in the Thai script. (Khmer script should have the same problems.) However, it seems even more likely to fail than the Latin locale, which still hasn't taken off.

Re: Role of Pali in Thailand

PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2014 11:43 pm
by David and Bui
Richard,

What does the word "locale" mean in this context?

Re: Role of Pali in Thailand

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 12:12 am
by Richard Wordingham
A "locale" is a generic set of computer customisations appropriate to a language and location. The most obvious one is how dates are displayed - calendar (AD v. BE) and names of days and months. In pre-Unicode days, it would include the character encoding in use, though nowadays that would be more likely to be the preferred encoding for various purposes, such as e-mail. It includes various degrees of linguistic information for text processing, such as rules for alphabetical sorting, capitalisation, word boundaries and line-breaking. It can also include more sophisticated text, such as how to say '2 days ago'. It can encapsulate grammatical rules for word forms after numbers, so that for Russian the programmer would supply (in a simple case) nominative singular, genitive singular and genitive plural of a word, and the Russian locale would tell the program which of the three words goes with the number.

The issue with (most) Pali in Thai script is that line-breaking can be done using the usual European rules: one does not use a dictionary to work out where text may be broken. Above all, one would not use a Thai dictionary to do line-breaking on Pali words. This sort of selection would be most useful in a browser or word processor, where text can be tagged with its language.

Re: Role of Pali in Thailand

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:21 am
by Thomas
Richard,

thank you for discussing this topic in the right section!

Richard Wordingham wrote:I don't think many people understand Pali in Thailand. How well would a typical German physician understand a text in Latin or Greek? The coining of words of Latin and Greek origin is done with a dictionary ... .


Sometimes, eventually I'm not a typical German physician, I'm visiting the 'Latina' at Wikipedia (http://la.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicipaedia:Pagina_prima) - for fun, and and for finding out how much of the text I still understand.
Medical terminology (coining and understanding the coinage) is within the curriculum for earning a medical degree but I agree that this can be learned without deep knowledges of Latin and/or classical Greek. In addition, English is the lingua franca of medicine. As to (local) terminology the most frequent problem I encounter in our days is the question whether there is a real need to translate a well defined English medical-technical term, for means of comprehensability (?), into "vernacular", i.e. in this specific case one of the other 23 official languages of the EU (+/- Icelandic and Norwegian).

I still know the practice of the catholic church (about 4 to 5 decades ago) that gospels and prayers were song and recited in Latin whereas the faithful did not necessarily need to understand what they were singing and recitating. I think this picture could, thus, fit also to a cermony in Thailand.
Richard Wordingham wrote:I think Pali is still seen to have magical properties, so the issue doesn't arise.

:lol: Nothing to add.

So thank you! I feel that your additional information will help to amend my perception of (religious) every-day life in Thailand.

Thomas

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