Ahhh, yes. The wonderful and mysterious world of homophones and homographs. You know, it’s funny how I never spent nearly this much time in high school worrying about grammatical concepts. Interesting how I couldn’t care less about it back then, but now I can’t wait to dive in and discover something new. Time flies when you get old.

Anyway… I certainly can’t speak about all languages, but interestingly enough both Thai and English have homophones and homographs. I can tell your excited. Oh, wait! That’s not excitement; that’s the look of “what the hell are homophones and homographs?”

Okay, fine, how about we talk about what they are first and then work our way into some examples in Thai?

Homophones

Homophones (คำพ้องเสียง /kam pɔ́ɔng sǐang/) are words that sound the same but are spelled different and have different meanings. Here are a few examples of English homophones:

  1. to, too, two
  2. do, dew, due
  3. made, maid
  4. cite, sight, site

You get the idea. Thai has the same concept; here are a few Thai examples:

  1. รด /rót/ – to spill or pour a liquid    :::    รถ /rót/ – a car    :::    รส /rót/ – taste, flavor
  2. พัน /pan/ – the number 1,000    :::    พันธ์ /pan/ – to bind or fasten together    :::    พันธุ์ /pan/ – relatives, kin, breed
  3. สัน /sǎn/ – backbone, knife edge    :::    สรรค์ /sǎn/ – to build    :::    สรร /sǎn/ – to choose, select

Homographs

Homographs (คำพ้องรูป /kam pɔ́ɔng rûup/) are spelled the same but have different meanings. For example:

  1. address (place of residence, and a manner of speaking to someone)
  2. close (to shut, and to mean something that is near something else; in proximity to)
  3. desert (a large body of sand, and to leave or abandon something)
  4. present (current, a gift, to be in attendance)

Again, Thai has several instances of homographs as well:

  1. ผม /pǒm/ – means both “hair” and “I/me” for male speakers
  2. ตา /dtaa/ – means both “eye” and “grandfather”
  3. เย็น /yen/ – means both “cool” and “early evening”

Admittedly, there don’t seem to be a significant number of examples for both. It would be great if my loyal readers/fellow students could contribute a few more for the cause…