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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Thanked 13 Times in 7 Posts

    When is ไม่ pronounced as "may" and when as "mai"?

    In ไม่เป็นไร it is "mai". In ไม่ได้ it is "may". The script is the same for both: ไม่. There is no clue in the script to tell you how to pronounce it - "mai" or "may".

    Could someone enlighten me? This word is rather common in many words and phrases.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
    Thanked 313 Times in 105 Posts

    Re: When is ไม่ pronounced as "may" and when as "mai"?

    I don't think the first syllable of ไม่ได้ is ever pronounced "may" (as in the month of May). I do have a guess about how you could have "heard" a sound that isn't actually there.

    Vowels in most languages can get reduced, and some form of that might have sounded to your ear like "may". For example, a very emphatic ไม่ได้ meaning 'Can't be done!' or "No way!' can put strong word stress on the ได้ while reducing the vowel in ไม่ to kind of a short 'uh'. Since more than one vowel sound in a language can often be reduced to the same final sound, our brains are free to 'fill in' whatever sound would have been the non-reduced variant. Obviously native speakers have the advantage when doing this since their brains have been "wired correctly" for the language since birth.

    Here is clip taken from thai-language dot com website of a native speaker saying that phase, presumably in a neutral way without any kind of vowel reduction. I think if you ask any native speaker to say ไม่ได้ you'll get a similar response.

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