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  Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre
Ethnic Groups Research Database
Sorted by date | title

   Record

 
Subject Pwo Karen, names, Karen language, value, society, Ratchaburi
Author Chompunut Phothongkham
Title Names of the Pwo Karen in Tambon Suan Phueng, Suan Phueng District, Ratchaburi Province
Document Type Thesis Original Language of Text Thai
Ethnic Identity Phlong, Language and Linguistic Affiliations Sino-Tibetan
Location of
Documents
Faculty of Graduate Studies, Mahidol University Total Pages 128 Year 1998
Source Linguistics Department, Mahidol University
Abstract

The thesis explored the Thai and Karen names of the Pwo Karen in five villages in Tambon Suan Phueng. The study involved 450 people divided into three age groups. For the 41-to-60-year age group, most of their names were in Karen. If the names were in Thai, the writing must be similar to Karen. Since they were illiterate in Thai, their names were created by state officials. The meanings of their names were related to nature, trees or flowers. For the 21-to-40-year age group, their names were in both Karen and Thai, because they had more contacts with the outside world. The meanings of their names were more abstract, e.g., goodness, success or prosperity. For the final group, aged one to twenty years, all of them had Thai names and their meanings were abstract, such as power, victory or success.
    
The Pwo Karen call themselves Plow or Plong or Pagano Pow, which means “humans”. They are called Mon Karen by the Burmese, Plong or Yang Do Dae or Yang Ban by northern Thai people. Some Thais call them Red Karen because Karen married women are dressed in red sarongs and red blouses (pp. 12-13). Other Karen groups in Thailand include Sgaw or White Karen and Bre or Kayah or Bwe. The latter is called Red Karen by the Shan and northern Thai people, because married women wear red sarongs and blouses. It is noted that calling the ethnic group by the colors of their dresses can be confusing. Pa-o or Taungthu call themselves Pa-o, meaning “humans” and the Burmese call them Taungthu, meaning “hill people”. Pa-o women wear black, so they are called Black Karen. They are mostly found in the Shan State of Burma. In Thailand, some of them can be found in villages in Muang District, Mae Hong Son Province (p. 13)
    
Thai and Karen names of the three age groups varied considerably. For the 41-to-60-year age group, 94.55% of their names were in Karen and 5.45% in Thai. For the 21-to-40-year age group, 81.87% were in Karen and 18.13% were in Thai, whereas all of their names were in Thai for the one-to-twenty- year age group (p. 101).
    
It was also found that 90.40% of the names were concrete nouns related to the environment, but only 9.60% were abstract nouns related to Buddhist and animistic beliefs. The individuals choosing the names included parents, grandparents, official leaders, and spiritual leaders. Nevertheless, it was the parents who named their children the most (p. 101, table on page 62).
    
Regarding the meanings of names in the first group, aged 41 to 60 years, the meanings were related to shapes, colors or personal attributes, followed by household utensils, e.g., winnowing trays, animal traps, bottles, barns, jugs, or silk (pp. 66, 70). For the second group, aged 21 to 40 years, the meanings of their names were related mostly to actions, followed by animals, animal parts, objects, and household utensils. (p. 102).
    
Gender-wise, male names in the first group were mostly related to shapes, physical attributes and colors, followed by household utensils. Female names were mostly related to actions, followed by shapes, physical attributes and colors (p. 102). Male names of the second group were mostly related to actions, followed by household utensils, prosperity and merit-based beliefs. Female names were mostly related to animals or animal parts, followed by actions and birth dates and times (p. 102).
    
There were four types of Karen naming methods: using Karen names based on Thai script, e.g., Mongtalu ‘a wicker container’, Kong ‘wheel’ or Jikhwang ‘treasure trove; deleting or adding or changing Karen sounds, e.g., Pha ‘male, Wer ‘angel’, Lerng ‘pumpkin juice’ and Khlay ‘dry’ (pp. 81-82); translating from Karen names, e.g., Jaeng ‘dawn’ or Nok ‘bird’ (p. 82); and using various methods for Thai names (p. 102).
    
Thai names in the second group were based on translating from their Karen names, deleting or adding or changing the sounds, and maintaining the sounds in their ethnic names. For the third group, their names were in Thai from the beginning (p. 103).
    
Individuals giving names to the ethnic group included officers at the district office, parents, Tambon chief and village heads for the first group; parents and teachers for the second group; and parents and grandparents for the third group (p. 103).
    
The meanings of Thai names for the first group included trees and flowers, followed by prosperity, fame, merit, auspiciousness, and angels (pp. 92, 94). For the second group, the meanings included power, victory or excellence (p. 91).
    
For the third group, the meanings of their Thai names were related to prosperity, reputation, merit, auspiciousness, angels, power, victory, and excellence (pp. 91-92, 103).
    
Gender-wise, the meanings of Thai names for Karen males in the first group were related to trees, flowers, prosperity, reputation, merit, auspiciousness, angels, power, and victory (pp. 103-104). For females, the meanings of their Thai names were mostly related to trees and flowers, followed by animals (p. 104).
    
The meanings of their Thai names for males in the second group were related to power, victory, excellence, bravery, prosperity, reputation, merit, auspiciousness, and angels. For females, the meanings were related to geographical aspects, nature, beauty, purity, and goodness (p. 104).
    
The meanings of their Thai names for males in the third group were related to prosperity, reputation, merit, auspiciousness, angels, power, victory, and excellence. For females, the meanings were related to beauty, purity, goodness, trees, and flowers (p. 104).
    
The thesis summarized the Pow Karen phonology at Suan Phueng District conducted by Audra Phillips. There are 21 single consonants, eight consonant clusters, ten monophthongs, and ten diphthongs. There are four tones, namely mid tone (33), mid-falling (31), high-rising (45), and high-falling (51) (p. 53). The thesis also examined the sound system of the Pow Karen and found that it was similar to that of Audra Phillips. Phillips compared the Pow Karen phonology in four villages in Sankhla Buri and Srisawat Districts in Kanchanaburi Province, Suan Phueng District in Ratchaburi Province, and Kaengkachan District in Phetchaburi Province. It was found that 97% of the words spoken in Ratchaburi and Phetchaburi Provinces were similar and 97 % of the words spoken in Srisawat and Sangkhla Buri Districts were similar.
    
The similarities of the lexical items indicated that the upper and lower Pow Karen dialects were similar at a medium level (p. 53). The thesis also mentioned other phonological studies of the ethnic group. They included Pow Karen in Pasim and Moulmein in Burma by Robert B. Jones; Pow Karen in Ratchaburi by Weerawat Sanranjit; phonological characteristics of Pow Karen in Hot District, Chiang Mai, by Joseph Cook, Edwin Hutspeed and James Morris; Pow Karen in Ban Rai District, Uthai Thani Province, by Chutima Kaewsin; the phonological system of Pow Karen in Huay Hom Nork Village, Tambon Thamaelo, Lamphun Province, by Naruemon Chuensukhon; and grammatical aspects of Pow Karen in Huay Hom Nork Village, Tambon Thamaelo, Lamphun Province, by Lalin Benjakul (pp. 42-53).
    
Ethnic names have become less popular, partly due to the influence of Thai culture. Additionally, concerned state agencies have campaigned for ethnic groups to change their names and family names into Thai, raising their awareness of being Thai and giving them citizenship and identity cards. Furthermore, some ethnic people feel that, in the perspective of Thai people, their ethnic names sound funny, making them less confident about their names. For this investigation, the first and second age groups retain both Thai and ethnic names, the former for official purposes and the latter for ethnic camaraderie. The first age group retains their ethnic names but they are written in Thai (p. 61).

Text Analyst Phumchai Kachamit Date of Report Jun 30, 2017
TAG Pwo Karen, names, Karen language, value, society, Ratchaburi, Translator Chalermchai Chaichomphu
 
 

 

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