Thai numerical classifiers

July 26, 2006

It has always seemed to me that languages develop their own complexities in order to protect their users from the prying attention of foreigners. Thai has several of these subtleties. One is the use of numerical classifiers. In Thai you don’t say ‘two books’ but ‘book two numerical classifiers’. Some round objects share the same numerical classifier as do some long thin ones. One numerical classifier, according to my dictionary is used for ‘altar, armed forces, ashtray, beach, bridge, brothel, bruise, burn on skin, insect bites, breakfast cereals.’ Presumably Thais know what these have in common but this is not immediately apparent to the non Thai.

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