Languages of East Asia share many standard features because of the history of their lands. They have a similar sentence structure and a similar vocabulary with borrowed words. In today's post, we will walk you through the similarities and differences between the Chinese and Thai languages so that you won't ever feel confused about these two seemingly related languages. If you are ready for that, then let's start learning!
In history, Chinese culture dominated East Asia, and the classical Chinese language were adopted by scholars and governors in other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. As a result, many permanently borrowed vocabulary from the Chinese language into different Asian languages. Today, we can still see the influence of the Chinese grammar and Chinese writing system on Japanese (Kanji), Korean (Hanja), and Vietnamese ( Chữ Nôm). Let's dig deeper into this topic in the sections below.
• The Austroasiatic languages: It includes languages such as Vietnamese and Khmer.
• Tai–Kadai languages: It includes languages such as Thai, Lao, and Shan. These languages were once spoken in South China due to expanding Chinese civilization.
• The Miao–Yao: Also known as Hmong-Mien. They were spoken in rural areas of outer China.
• The Austronesian languages: These languages were spread from Taiwan to other island countries.
We will be looking at some similarities between the Chinese and Thai languages in this part of the post.
Both languages are based on monosyllabic words, and they have the same sentence pattern, which is S-V-O order. Moreover, they don't conjugate verbs and nouns. Consequently, Thai and Chinese grammar are similar, especially in terms of standard rules in pluralization and spelling patterns.
The grammatical rules of Chinese and Thai are relatively easy to understand, but their pronunciation and writing are challenging. Studies have shown that native people whose native language is Thai can quickly pick up the Chinese language compared to the other learners and vice-versa. However, we can't say the same thing for the Japanese or Korean languages.
Let's see similarities between Thai words and Chinese words. Since they are in the same language family, they have a lot of common sounds and words, modal auxiliaries, and grammatical rules. Here are some similar words:
|Eleven||Sap yat||Sip et|
|Twenty||Yii sap||Yii sip|
• Both languages have SVO sentence construction patterns.
• Both languages are time-independent, so you don't have to memorize the future, present, past forms of most words.
• Their tones are similar, but they are more serious and standardized in the Thai language. You don't need to change the tone to show any emotion in the Thai language)
• Both languages have similar honorific and self-title systems. It is like the Japanese use of boku, desu, etc. So Japanese is similar to them as well.
Linguists assume two reasons behind the similarities between the Chinese and Tai languages. Either they are part of a sprachbund or genetically related to each other. Before three decades, linguistic studies suggested that Thai belonged to Sino-Tibetan Language Family.
Today, linguists are not sure about any genetic relationship between Thai and Chinese using the comparative method. However, it is so evident that there are similarities due to word-borrowing, which is typical for these languages.
• While the Thai language has 5 Thai tones, the Chinese language has nine tones. They are different tonal languages.
• Thai adjectives occur after the subject like a Romance language, whereas Chinese adjectives occur before the subject like a German/Anglo language.
• Some Thai vocabulary has Chinese origin because the Thai language originated from the Sino tribe of ancient China.
• Thai uses an alphabetical writing system with several redundant characters to stimulate the foreign sound like Arabic "r" sound or Indian "th" sound; however, most are no longer used and serve as just another redundant character.
• The Thai language belongs to the Tai-Kadai family, whereas the Chinese language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family.
Thai culture and Chinese culture share many everyday traditional items since many Chinese people immigrated to Thailand and married Thai people back in history. Several people in Thailand are counted as half Chinese. This made lots of Chinese cultures has been spread to Thailand. Although, both Thai and Chinese peoples seem to be similar in culture, tradition, and religion.
Today, nearly all ethnic Chinese in Thailand speak Thai, but only elderly Chinese immigrants still speak their native varieties of Chinese. The assimilation of Thai-Chinese was rapid. As we mentioned above, there are many signs of Chinese language in the Thai language. A number of Chinese words have found their way into the Thai language, especially the names of dishes and foodstuffs. As well as the language, Chinese cuisine has also an influence on Thai cuisine. There is also a social part of this exchange. For example, visiting family and relatives or respecting their ancestors and elderly people are very important in cultures.
If you want to learn Thai or Chinese but don't want to go to a full-time language course, let me introduce the Ling App!
Ling App by Simya Solutions is a shockingly good language learning platform that houses lessons for 60+ languages (including Asian languages)! You can advance all four language skills by learning with the Ling App for at least 10 minutes a day. Thanks to its interactive features, you can learn both vocabulary and grammar in a fun and practical way. And the best part is that you can try it for free! Download it today and start learning the right way!