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A Thai speaker (I’m not sure about their fluency or what regional variants they use) told me that 1) the particles ครับ and ค่ะ are essentially only taught to foreigners and have very little usage among native Thai speakers and that 2) the idea that different particles are used by different genders is also false. It’s possible they actually meant that the use of polite particles (and gendered particles) is more like a regional variant, and is rare amongst native Thai speakers rather than nonexistent.

Discussion of these particles is so ubiquitous, I find it hard to believe they don’t exist at all, but I could certainly believe their significance is heavily exaggerated. On a continuum from “ค่ะ and ครับ are myths only taught to and used with tourists” to “the terms are ubiquitous in most Thai speech,” where does the truth lie? If they do exist at all, is there indeed a gendered divide in which particle is used?

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    They're very common - nearer 'ubiquitous' than 'mythical'. Just listen to Thai radio / TV / podcasts (all readily available via any number of apps). – user23078 May 14 '19 at 20:05
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    I just rewatched the first scene of ATM, which is a mainstream romcom from 2012 set in Bangkok. I counted 14 occurrences in the first minute. In fairness a lot depends on context - that first minute contains a lot of short conversations between bank employees and their boss. Not a foreigner in sight though. – user23078 May 15 '19 at 9:08
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I was there in the rural areas and they used the particles among each other as well. A lot of standard phrases wouldn't even sound right without it - like Kop Kun Kaa/Kap.

Also, it is used intensively in flirting - the women pronouncing the Kaa in an overtly feminine way if they are in a playful mood. While the men, with or without flirt intentions, try to pronounce the particle as masculine as possible, so it sounds more like Xep, if they want to sound impressive.

In formal or touristy situations they may use it in more situations, and more pronounced. And some people may not be using it a lot, even deliberately avoid it. There might also be some people who avoid it for reasons of egalitarianism, not forcing people of diverse gender to come out to everyone and so on - I can't say much about developments in the last 10 years.

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  • Very helpful, thanks. Do you remember what particular regions you were in? This person was so adamant, I just want to get a broader sense of usage. – Pat Muchmore May 15 '19 at 1:39
  • Phetchaburi - but the people I had to do with were mostly Laotians (the Thai minority, not the citizens of that country). – Carl Dombrowski May 15 '19 at 5:40
  • You only need to watch TV or listen to radio. People say it probably up to ten times per minute! Especiall as it basically means: yes - please - I'm listening - thank you etc. If you order something or buy something in a shop you say "I want 5 beer. KAP!" Just saying: "I want fife beer" is even unpolite in english, you add please, and in Thai you add "Khrap". – Angel O'Sphere Oct 4 '19 at 15:43

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