on 20 June 2004
A new book on the grammar of spoken Thai has been released, and it must be the best book on Thai I've seen. Thai Reference Grammar, by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan, is a reference book rather than something you're likely to polish off in one sitting. The authors analysed examples of spoken and colloquial Thai, then came up with their own examples to illustrate how sentences are built. It comes to more than 400 pages, and must represent thousands of hours of work.
The authors consulted Thai speakers interested in passing on the language, to find out what makes it tick. The transliteration system is good: it gives you the length of vowels as they exist in spoken Thai.
This can be different from their value in written Thai, and in fact the authors change the Thai spelling of some words, given in their examples, to show the way the words are pronounced (kao, for he, has a high tone in spoken Thai but rising tone in written Thai) in cases where this differs from the written version!
The book does not confine itself to spoken Thai, however; for any given word ('so', for example, in the sense of consequently or therefore) it will give you the six or seven Thai words in use, and show you how they are deployed; and will tell you which are in every-day use and which you're likely to encounter mainly in writing ie the formal ones you can avoid.
The authors seem to know exactly what trips up or holds back a learner. You'll find an entire chapter here devoted to the order of events (before, after, in three days time), another to tenses, another one again to the use of 'gor', and yet another to end-sentence particles.
This book is a serious and comprehensive study of Thai. I know of none better, and have read plenty. It is accessible, though will take you a while to get through: I spent three hours with it today, and covered less than half a chapter!
on 21 June 2013
This is second grammar book on Thai which I have read (the other one is David Smyth, Thai An Essential Grammar). It has lots of good and essential information on how to use Thai language, formal and non-formal variants. But it has one big flaw, the transliteration. As this book is supposed to be for intermediate and advanced level students and on that level (I think) you should already know how to read Thai script, even the book seems to make that point as it really doesn't teach you how to read Thai script, like on David Smyth book, it just teaches how to read the transliteration system. So why to use on every grammar explanation part just the transliteration but not Thai script? Also other problem is that the transliteration on explanation part doesn't have tones or vocal lengths marked. This isn't that big problem as you can always look up the words from the example sentences.
Other reviewer complained that the thai script was too small, but I have 2008 version and it seems they have fixed that, as its written on normal sized fonts. Too bad they didn't change the tranliteration use also.
Other than that, its really must to have for anyone who is serious about learning Thai. It hast lots of staff that was missing in Smyths book, but also Smyth books have stuff that you cant find here, so its good to own both books. If there wasn't transliteration, or just on lesser amounts, I would give this 5 stars.
on 19 August 2003
Yes, there is a niche for a grammar book on advanced level Thai. However, this book succeeds only partly. Readers likely to be interested in this level of detailed grammer are mainly readers and writers - or at least learners - of the Thai script. Yet another author who decided to invent a new romanisation system! It is most frustrating in its persistent use of non-phonetic romanised script. Key grammar points are all romanised with no original script against them. Likewise, the index is in romanised script only. The only concession - almost an afterthought - are the examples which, in comparatively small print, are shown in Thai script after romanised and English versions. A terrible shame - it could have been such a wonderful book! Perfect for those who only wish to speak the language and never become proficient readers/writers.
on 4 April 2008
I would never use this book for reference purposes except for the classifiers at the back if I fancy showing off. Yet when I needed it, it didn't have the one I wanted!!! (presents) Maybe it is there but I just couldn't find it - which still makes it fairly useless.
There is some interesting stuff inside but despite being fairly fluent I'm just not THAT interested.
Illustrations don't illustrate, it's hard if not impossible to reference from, examples in thai are too small to read and you need to put in a lot of effort getting to grips with the new romanisation format.
Needs a lot of re-work if it wants to compete with other contenders out there.