Patrick McCormick

Department of History, University of Washington in Seattle




The Mon-Language Rājādhirāj and Thai Models


Despite the argument of the Mons having one of the first civilizations of Mainland Southeast Asia, it does not follow that all Mon-language texts and sources are original. Historians consider Rājādhirāj, better known in its Thai and Burmese versions, to be the seminal text of Mon history. Yet the Mon-language version as printed in early 20th-century Siam appears to have been largely translated from Thai, or retold in a heavily Siamified dialect of Mon. Although widely available in print for a hundred years, no scholar has yet analyzed the unusual features of the Mon in this text. Scholars may not be able to conceive of this text as coming from outside Mon-language sources, and resist an interpretation of the marked language as being translated from Thai or representing a Siamified version of Mon.

This paper is a preliminary analysis of the language of the Mon-language Rājādhirāj which explores the extent to which the Mon constructions, semantic fields, word order, and particles reveal a one-side harmonization towards Thai, with native Mon materials being reinterpreted to replicate Thai models. Yet we must be cautious about assuming there is an original Mon linguistic essence – the Mon of Burma has been harmonizing towards Burmese models for several centuries. While the exact circumstances of the production of this text may ultimately prove irrecoverable, an analysis of the language of the text suggests new historical interpretations of the heterogeneity of the predecessors and transmission of this text, which may have involved oral performance.