Taste Terms in the Patani Malay Ethnic Group

  • Nuntana Wongthai Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand


This paper reveals the concepts of taste in the Patani Malay ethnic group. Forty-five Patani Malays living in Pattani province, Yala province, and Narathiwat province participated in this study. The analysis uses the framework of componential analysis in ethnosemantics. The results show that there are ten basic taste terms in the Patani Malay dialect: /masɛ/ ‘sour’, /maseŋ/ ‘salty’, /manih/ ‘sweet’, /paheɁ/ ‘bitter’, /lɨcah/ ‘a little bit spicy and causing tongue pain’, /lɨta/ ‘unpleasant taste, sticking on the tongue and causing tongue numbness’, /khɨlaɁ/ ‘astringent’, /pɨdah/ ‘spicy’, /lɨmɔɁ/ ‘nutty’ and          /tawa/ ‘bland’. All of them are distinguished by eight dimensions:  taste buds, tongue side, tongue tip, acidity, tongue body, pain, tongue numbness, and nuttiness. Besides using each taste term individually to describe tastes of food, Patani Malays also use them repeatedly, combine each taste term together, and combine them with modifiers.

From these ten basic taste terms, there are two taste terms that concern pain in the mouth and on the tongue. These are /lɨcah/ ‘a little bit spicy and causing tongue pain’and /pɨdah/ ‘spicy’. This reflects the preference for spicy flavours in the Patani Malay ethnic group. It may be due to the influence of using spices and chili in cooking adopted from foreign countries since ancient times. It may also be due to the geographical characteristics of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat provinces, which are located along the coast. People, therefore, prefer eating spicy food to keep their body warm and prevent illness.