The Intersection of Language and Culture: A Pragmatic Analysis of Thai Verbs for ‘To Pay Respect’ and Their Sociocultural Implications


  • Jinawat Kaenmuang Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

DOI: 10.59865/abacj.2023.57
Published: 2023-10-19


cultural words; pragmatic functions; speech acts; metonymy; intensifiers


Cultural words invariably capture the attention of scholars from diverse fields due to their intrinsic connection with societal values, customs, traditions, and beliefs. Nevertheless, in-depth investigations into cultural words remain relatively scarce in Thai. This research centers on examining two fundamental Thai verbs, kràap (กราบ) and wâaj (ไหว้), linked initially with acts of paying respect. Employing data analysis firmly rooted in corpora of naturally occurring language, the results uncover the expansive nature of these verbs, encompassing a wide array of pragmatic functions, including expressing gratitude, praise, apologies, and requests. In particular, they possess the autonomy to function as speech acts in isolation. Given the central role that the gestures of kràap and wâaj occupy within the communication framework, metonymy emerges as a critical factor underpinning the development of these pragmatic functions. This research illuminates novel pathways for the creation of culture-specific intensifiers. By shedding light on the intricate interplay between language and culture, this study enhances our understanding of the cultural nuances inherent in these linguistic concepts, thereby deepening our appreciation of how culture permeates language.