There are words like /chaj/ and /mej/, but as far as I understand they are not exactly yes and no.

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    It can be hard to answer "why" questions like this. There are other languages with no word for "yes" or "no", and there are languages with a word for one but not the other, or that have separate words for responding to negative vs. positive questions. Apr 9, 2019 at 11:13
  • In Portuguese we have words for no and yes, but I hardly ever use the word for yes in informal situations. If I were to say "yes", I wouldn't say "sim"; I'd say "é" (it is) instead. But that's not like this in other accents. Apr 10, 2019 at 14:29
  • Thai: yes is chai: ใช่, no is mai: ไม่. No idea why you believe they have no yes and no. Oct 4, 2019 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


Short answer: Because Thai language has other tools for expressing polarity (affirmation and negation).

Polarity is a grammatical category for expressing the speaker's assertion that a certain clause is true (positive polarity, or affirmation) or false (negative polarity, or negation).

There are numerous linguistic tools to encode both polarities, and each language chooses its own set of these tools.

English has much more than simple "yes" and "no". Consider yea and nay, the two forms originally intended for answering questions "is it...?" (yes and no were originally used for answering inverted questions "is it not...?"

English also has an essential difference between no (negative), no (qualifier), and not.

As I said, Thai has different tools for expressing polarity:

First off, ไม่ [mâj] is a negative particle (NEG), quite similar to English not. Likewise in English, it is also used with verbs only:

ผมเอา [pʰǒm ʔaw] — I want¹
ผมไม่เอา [pʰǒm mâj ʔaw] — I don't want¹

¹ hereinafter I'm skipping polite particles for brevity; don't omit polite particles in real speech.

The positive polarity is encoded with verbs; and the negative polarity simply adds the NEG particle mentioned above:

  • repeating the verb:

    — คุณเอาไหม [kʰun ʔaw mǎj] — "do you want…?", literally "you want…, {INTERROG}"
    — เอา [ʔaw] — {I} want
    — ไม่เอา — [mâj ʔaw] — {I} don't want

  • an indirect flavor of "to be" is affirmed with ใช่ [tɕʰâj]:

    — ฟ้าใสไหม [fáː sǎj mǎj] — {the} sky {is} clear, isn't it?
    — ใช่ [tɕʰâj] — {it} is.

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    @Miztli, thank you for attempting to help, but formatting IPA as code make screen readers process it char-by-char and never treat it as words in a random language. While I admit that some old systems' monospace fonts lack support of combining characters, this must be a client's problem, not this site's. See also: linguistics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/15 for the rest of your edits where I'm going to thankfully accept proofreads, but not the removal of formatting. Apr 29, 2019 at 10:26

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