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Linguistic Diversity and National Unity

Language Ecology in Thailand

Unlike other multi-ethnic nations, such as Myanmar and India, where official language policy has sparked bloody clashes, Thailand has maintained relative stability despite its eighty languages. In this study of the relations among politics, geography, and language, William A. Smalley shows how Thailand has maintained national unity through an elaborate social and linguistic hierarchy.

Smalley contends that because the people of Thailand perceive their social hierarchy as the normal order, Standard Thai, spoken by members of the higher levels of society, prevails as the uncontested national language. By examining the hierarchy of Thailand’s diverse languages and dialects in light of Thai history, education, culture, and religion, Smalley shows how Thailand has been able to keep its many ethnic groups at peace.

Linguistic Diversity and National Unity explores the intricate relationship between language and power and the ways in which social and linguistic rank can be used to perpetuate order.

452 pages | 13 maps, 41 line drawings, 60 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1994

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Language and Linguistics: Anthropological/Sociological Aspects of Language

Table of Contents

Introduction: Thailand’s Sociolinguistic Anomalies
Pt. I: Languages of the Nation as a Whole
1: The Languages of Thailand at Home and Abroad
2: Standard Thai: Variations about a Norm
3: Social Dimensions of Standard Thai
4: Multidimensional Varieties: Ranges and Media
Pt. II: Major Regional Languages
5: Kammuang (Northern Thai)
6: Lao (Northeastern Thai)
7: Paktay (Southern Thai) and Thaiklang (Central Thai)
Pt. III: Marginal Regional Languages
8: Tai Yai (Shan), Sgaw (Karen), Phlow (Karen), plus Non-regional Phlong (Karen)
9: Northern Khmer plus Non-marginal Kuy
10: Pattani Malay
Pt. IV: Other Language Categories
11: Development and Displacement of Tai Languages and Dialects
12: Languages of Thai Towns and Cities: Chinese Languages
13: Marginal Languages in the Hierarchy: Mon, Pray, plus Non-marginal Mal
14: Marginal Languages Adapting to the Hierarchy: Hmong (Meo, Miao)
15: Enclave Languages
Pt. V: Trans-Language Issues
16: Writing and Education
17: Change and Development
18: Language and Ethnicity
19: Minority Problem as Thai Problem
Appendix A: Languages in the Hierarchy
Appendix B: Language Population Estimates
Appendix C: Symbols

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