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Politeness in Thai

The level of formality in Thai communication depends on the relative status of participants in an exchange and the context in which the exchange is taking place. For example, depending on these factors, appropriate titles must be used to address people, and other words of the right formality level must be chosen. To address each other in a formal way, Thais add the polite title คุณ (khun) in front of the addressee’s first name to show politeness, whether the addressee is a man or a woman: คุณทิม (khun thim), คุณลิน (khun lin), คุณจอห์น (khun jawn), คุณแพม (khun phaem). Apart from adding the polite title คุณ (khun) in front of the addressee’s first name, the choice of

pronoun can also show the different degree of politeness and formality. For instance, the pronouns diˊ-chanˇI, me’ used by females and kraˋ-phomˇI, me’ used by males are considered more polite than their shortened forms chanˇ and phomˇ, respectively.

The particles ค่ะ (khaˆ), คะ (kha´), and ครับ (khrab´) are also important when speaking Thai. They are placed at the end of utterances to show respect to the person one is speaking to; they have no other meaning than this social and symbolic one. Male speakers use ครับ (khrab´), and female speakers use either ค่ะ (khaˆ) or คะ (kha´).

The male speakers use the word ครับ (khrab´) in any kind of utterance, while the female speakers use ค่ะ (khaˆ), with a falling tone, to end statements, and คะ (kha´), with a high tone, to end questions.