“Kox Kwai Kauv Kox Kwai”: Ecopoetic Symbolisation in Pgaz K’Nyau Oral Poetry


  • Ignasi Ribó Mae Fah Luang University
  • Sitthichok Samachitloed Mae Fah Luang University
  • Prapawarin Noopan Mae Fah Luang University
  • Chanakan Satrakom Mae Fah Luang University
  • Papawarin Kotchamit Mae Fah Luang University


This article presents the transcription, translation, and annotation of an original performance of hta, a traditional form of oral poetry in Sgaw, the language of the Pgaz K’Nyau (Karen) people of northern Thailand. This performance was recorded during ethnopoetic fieldwork carried out in two villages in the province of Chiang Rai. The hta is then analysed to understand the operations of ecopoetic symbolisation that bring particular nonhumans into the domain of human language. This analysis reveals that a metaphorical mode of symbolisation is extensively used throughout the hta to overcome human/nonhuman allotopies by means of implicit or explicit semic transformations. This seems to indicate that a naturalistic mode of identification underlies the whole poem, a conclusion that calls into question the essentialising and mythifying portrayal of the Pgaz K’Nyau as pre-modern and animistic indigenous stewards.


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