Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Etymology of Thesaban and Thesaphiban

I am sure Rikker on his blog on the Thai language would do a better job than me, but since the simple question whether the correct romanization of the word เทศบาล in the RTGS should be thesaban or thetsaban led to a real gem of etymological discussion on my Wikipedia talk page.
The spelling of the word in Thai will usually tell you which words are pronounced this way. In words like เทศบาล, which we might transliterate (not transcribe) as {thesbal}, the ศ /s/ has a dual role: it acts as the final consonant of the first syllable เทศ (from deśa "country"), pronounced /thet/ in isolation, but ศ /s/ also gives us an implicit /a/ vowel that becomes the linking syllable /sa/ connecting with บาล /ban/ (from pāl "protect").
Thus, the word thesaban (municipality) from its Indic Sanskrit roots means something like "protection of country".

I already was about ask Rikker if the word "thesaphiban" (เทศาภิบาล), used as the common term of all the administrative reforms under Prince Damrong in his time as Interior Minister 1894-1915. The "sa" syllable in the two words is totally different, for thesaban it's a short "a" (อะ), while in thesaphiban it is a long "a" (อา). But actually, the two words are related
Another reason to keep Thesaban occurred to me -- to maintain consistency with Thesaphiban (เทศาภิบาล), from the Indic roots เทศ (deśa) + อภิ (abhi) + บาล (pāl), but due to sandhi (สนธิ) compounding rules it becomes เทศาภิบาล (deśābhipāl, with a long ā vowel), and thus in RTGS must be Thesaphiban, and never *Thetsaphiban. Personally, I'd prefer to maintain consistency between these words with the same roots.
Tej Bunnag gives the etymology of the word thesaphiban in his book "The Provincial Administration of Siam 1892-1915" as follows
The word thesaphiban is compounded from three words of Pali origin, namely thet or thesa meaning ‘country’, aphi meaning ‘in particular' or ‘special’, ban or bala meaning ‘to be in charge of something’, and can be translated literally as ‘to be in special charge of an area of the country’.


Just the original question wasn't solved completely yet - it seems RTGS would suggest the spelling thetsaban, the actually pronunciation is however closer to thesaban.

I cannot recall why I did choose that spelling back then, whether I did not trust the output of the romanization tool by Wirote Aroonmanakun (see also this review in the LearningPost), or I chose the spelling from the ones I saw the web which looked most close to the way RTGS is applied to the non-Sanskrit words.

6 comments:

BloggStock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BloggStock said...

RID provides us with the following entries:

เทศาจาร ดู เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ.
เทศาภิบาล ดู เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ.

เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ [เทด, เทดสะ-, เทสะ]

From my point of view this allows a single conclusion:

In Thai, satha akson thai, and RTGS:

เทศาภิบาล [เทดสะพิบาน]thet-sa-phi-ban
เทศบาล [เทดสะบาน] thet-sa-ban

I see only this solution. RID does not allow any other interpretation, and is not ambigous on this question. Accordingly, เทศบาล shoudl be pronounced as [เทดสะบาน].




Whether the inhabitants of เทศบาล pronounce it more like [เทดบาน]/thet-ban or [เทสะบาน]the-sa-ban may indicate that they do not consider it as a composed term. The regional view, however, has no effect on the rules of RTGS.

deza (Sanskrit, I use Harvard-Kyoto) means:
point, region, spot, place, part

abhipAla
(((อภิบาล ก. บํารุงรักษา, ปกครอง. (ป., ส. อภิปาล).))), Sanksrit, means protector.

abhi, as a single term, or by itself, is not a Sanskrit but Pali term (((อภิ คําประกอบหน้าศัพท์ที่มาจากภาษาบาลีและสันสกฤต มีความหมาย
ว่า ยิ่ง, วิเศษ, เหนือ, เช่น อภิรมย์ = ยินดียิ่ง, อภิญญาณ = ความรู้วิเศษ,
อภิมนุษย์ = มนุษย์ที่เหนือมนุษย์ทั้งหลาย. (ป.).)))

Rikker said...

First off: เทศาภิบาล [เทดสะพิบาน]thet-sa-phi-ban is just wrong.

There is only one way to read this in Thai: เท-สา-พิ-บาน = the-sa-phi-ban. The long vowel สระอา makes it so.

RID's pronunciation guide in the case of words like เทศบาล works more as a guide for reading the right tones than as a guide to real pronunciation. You can say it [เทด-สะ-บาน] with a clear /t/ in the first syllable if you want to, but it's kind of like pronouncing the "b" in "debt".

I've certainly never heard [เทด-บาน], nor do people say it เทสะบาล, as you've written, which would require a mid-tone on the first syllable.

Rather, it has a falling tone as prescribed. However, as I mentioned, the stop consonant is not fully articulated.

If we were to write it in phonetic Thai, it would have to be something like [เทสสะบาล], with an actual /s/ at the end of the first syllable, even though that is technically impossible according to prescriptive rules of Thai pronunciation. But the ideal and the reality are different things.

While I understand the desire for order and uniformity, I don't think slavish adherence to RTGS where it doesn't make sense is a good thing. Particularly in light of the thesaban/thesaphiban connection.

I don't feel super strongly about the issue, though. I've just given my opinion, and my personal justification for it. I realize it breaks the rule, but I think there's just cause.

BloggStock said...

I would like to make here a point which derives your remark at the end "... I realize it breaks the rule,...":

With my own strong wording "From my point of view this allows a single conclusion:" I wanted to show how I would apply the rules (let me say as the civil servant being responsible for the romanization of the road sign in front of เทศาภิบาล, or เทศบาล respectively).

I used เทศาภิบาล as there more trickey starting point how I (civil servant...) would now use RID:

เทศาภิบาล ดู เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ.

So, for the question how to pronounce (a requirement for romanization according to RTGS) it correctly I should have a look on - and that's now part of my interpreation - on the (single) entry for a single term เทศ, a composed term starting with เทศ-, and single term ending on a glottal stop เทศะ.

The resulting (du --->) entry เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ [เทด, เทดสะ-, เทสะ] itself, however, I read as Farang ---- and I write again only for this question (not for right or wrong, I have also no strong feelings on that) --- as single syllable term with stop, dead, falling tone [เทด], as double syllabe term with stop = mid tone + low tone [เทสะ], in composed terms, however, it "makes" two syllables, each with a stop, the first in falling, the second in low [เทดสะ-].

Arrived on this point the question may be --- and what to do with the sara อา?

Actually I (may I be a Farang or the Thai civil servant) already visited เทศาภิบาล ดู เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ for this question only. I also know the santhi (สนธิ) rule deza + abhi = dezaabhi = dezAbhi = เทศาภิ ... but what does this help me?

Concerning whether I simply (???) applied the rules and you simply (???) did brake them:

Did I miss something as Farang, as Thai civil servant responsible for the romanization of เทศาภิบาล on a road map, did you miss something, or is RID missing something?

Or means เทศาภิบาล ดู เทศ, เทศ-, เทศะ ... take the สนธิ rules - in addition - into account?

Again, I showed only how I would apply the rules (of RI, RID, RTGS), as I understand them

rikker said...

RID is created by Thais for Thais, so they don't always spell everything out.

They only provide a guide for words with ambiguous pronunciation, and since เทศาภิบาล only has one possible pronunciation, [เท-สา-พิ-บาน], they don't spell it out.

They give [เทด, เทดสะ-, เทสะ] in an attempt to cover the bases of how the word can be pronounced in different contexts. Here's how to interpret the three:

(1) if it's one syllable in isolation, it's pronounced [เทศ] (falling tone).

(2) if it's one syllable in a compound, it's (nominally) [เทด-สะ] (falling tone). The second syllable nominally has a low tone, but in reality it's an unstressed syllable, so the tone is insignificant.

(3) if it's two syllables, it's [เท-สะ] (mid tone). The tone on the second syllable in the case of เทศะ would be low, but I think the real point here is to show that the first syllable has a mid tone.

It's this third option that applies to เทศา, even though the final vowel is different. The RID folks just expect their audience, native Thais, to know this as a matter of course.

I don't have a good answer for your hypothetical signmaker. But for every sign in RTGS in Thailand there are a hundred that aren't. :P

Michael Brückner said...

Maybe, but my wife pronounces thet-sa-phi-ban. And she is Thai.