Monday, October 12, 2009

Sit Down! or, How Not To Talk To a Lama

Like all languages, except maybe that spoken by surly teens, K. has a variety of politeness strategies. One of these, is that when speaking to someone who commands the utmost respect, such as a Lama you use an entirely different verb.

So, if you're talking about a normal person eating, you use the verb 'sadong' and its conjugations (please, don't think of asking me what they are...), but if you want to talk about a Lama eating you use the word 'sho'. There are a handful of verbs that have a regular form and a 'respect' form, most of them pretty common ones like eat, drink, sleep, come, stand etc.

This is all very well, and quite a nice way to do things - however, trying to elicit data with respect forms is quite difficult. Its easy to get someone to say things like 'you ate all the rice' or 'you didn't eat rice' - but it's a bit hard for them to imagine saying 'you are not eating rice, most holy Lama'. Sure it's grammatically possible - but it's just not easy getting people to say it.

1 comment:

  1. Caroline Field MethodsOctober 13, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    That's very interesting as Khmer also has a polite language for addressing relious authorities and the monarchy.