Laotians are champs when it comes to flavor words

(Peter Wang) #1

heard this on NPR last week, a story about how the Lao language is one of the best for flavor words:

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(Peter Wang) #2

I can’t resist adding more academic detail. The headline is based on a worldwide linguistic survey that included Nick Enfield, a specialist in the Lao language. As far as I could find by searching, it is referring to a 2018 paper about how good different languages are about words relating to different senses.


The claim I think is based on Figure 2 of the paper, from which Farsi speakers seem to be equally good at taste words as the Laotians; and then followed by Cantonese.

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(Peter Wang) #3

the radio journalist visits a Lao market stall in Bangkok, to consult the ladies there about different flavor words. I found a list that included those and more in a paper by Nick Enfield. Don’t know how to do tables, so this may look funky:
Lao word Meaning
the basic five, used in the survey
vaan3 ‘sweet’
khom3 ‘bitter’
nua2 ‘umami (taste of glutamate)’
som5 ‘sour’
khêm2 ‘salty’
additional basic flavor words commonly used in Lao
caang3 ‘not salty (enough), bland’
hùn2 ‘hot, minty,’ e.g. of mint leaves
khùùn1 ‘biting, tingly,’ e.g. of small eggplant Solanum aculeatissimum
faat5 ‘chalky, dry in the mouth,’ e.g. of unripe banana, overly strong
tea
phêt2 ‘spicy, hot,’ e.g. of chili, wasabi, pepper, strong toothpaste
khêt1 ‘causing an “itch in the teeth”’ (from too much sour snack
food)
man2 ‘oily, starchy, rich
https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_446254/component/file_752551/content

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