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Q&A

What is the Thai word for plurally numerical answer expectancy?

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I know that in Thai language, if someone asks a numeric question and expects an answer which is plurally numerical (two or more objects), it is common to add some special word to the question.
I would like to know what is that word.

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The concrete word to be used depends on the kind of the object you want to count and it is called a "classifier". There are hundreds of classifiers in Thai; much fewer classifiers than nouns, but still a lot of them. So you might associate each classifier with a class of nouns. If you cannot use resources in Thai (in the Thai script), you could perhaps sample the most common ones here.

Classifiers are in no way specific to questions; they are needed in any context where you need to count objects. So they will appear in "how many" type questions, in answers to those questions, and also in free standing sentences where you are counting anything. Instead of "five elephants", you'd have "elephant five animal". Chairs happen to belong to the same class like elephants, being multi-legged things, so "five chairs" would be "chair five animal". And so on.

Classifiers have additional grammatical functions in Thai as well. For example they can indicate definiteness; in this situation a classifier is used without a numeral, but its presence indicates that the noun is used in singular, so you might still interpret the classifier's presence to be involved in some form of counting.

One way of thinking about those noun classes could be to compare them to grammatical genders of languages like French or German or Russian, except that there are way more noun classes in Thai (compared to just three or so genders in those other languages, or to mere nine noun classes in Swahili). What French or German achieves with suffixes (on numerals and elsewhere), is achieved in Thai with standalone words. This is a very crude comparison which doesn't hold in every detail; I'm just trying to replace the notion of a "special word" by a richer parallel from languages closer to English.

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I'm not sure that classifiers are what the question asker was looking for. While I can't say that I actually know what they're asking (and I know no Thai at all), the way it's phrased makes it sound like they are asking for either a question particle or an interrogative pronoun. Moshi‭ 6 months ago

@Moshi - That was my first impression from the question as well, but I reconsidered as part of celebrating the Codidact anniversary. A classifier is obligatory in a simple question of the "how many" type. There's also "กี่" which means simply "how many" which would hardly strike a fluent speaker of English as "special". And there's no third special word in the Google translate dialect of Thai. Jirka Hanika‭ 6 months ago

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