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General news >> Tuesday July 22, 2008
SOUTHERN VIOLENCE

Yawi-Thai dictionary brings ray of hope

SIRIKUL BUNNAG


Two Muslim women flip through a Yawi-Thai dictionary, the first-ever in Thailand, at its launch yesterday. The publication aims to bridge the cultural gap between Thai Muslims and Buddhists.

Academics behind the publication of the first Yawi-Thai dictionary hope their work will break new ground and help restore peace in the restive deep South through a linguistic approach.

Worawit Baru, chief of the research project which published the Pattani Malay-Thai and Thai-Pattani Malay dictionary, said it is the first dictionary to help bridge the linguistic gap, one of contributing factors to the southern unrest.

Pattani Malay, or Yawi, is the local language widely used in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and some parts of Songkhla.

The project was the brainchild of the Institute of Southeast Asian Maritime States Studies under the Prince of Songkla University (PSU), Pattani campus, with support from the Asia Foundation.

Mr Worawit said the dictionary took more than two years to produce and 3,000 copies will be distributed free to those interested in learning Yawi.

After some in-depth research, approximately 12,000 words with Thai meaning are included in the 596-page dictionary compiled by veteran lexicographers, linguists and cultural experts from the South.

"We fully adhered to our research to ensure accuracy despite strong criticism that this dictionary puts a dent in the identity of the Pattani Malay language because the Thai alphabet is used for the phonetic spellings," Mr Worawit said.

"A dialect is not a literary language, so the Thai alphabet was brought into use," he added.

PSU human sciences lecturer Wemayi Woraman, a member of the team which produced the dictionary, said it would be very useful for state officials working in the deep South to increase their language proficiency.

It would also be very handy for Muslims living elsewhere when they seek jobs in the troubled region, he added.

Asia Foundation director James Klien said it will help bridge the cultural gap between Thai Muslims and Buddhists when it came to communication.

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