Cambodian Language/Writing System

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The Cambodian script (called Khmer letters) are all probably derived from various forms of the ancient Brahmi script of South India. The Cambodian script has symbols for thirty-three consonants, twenty-four dependent vowels, twelve independent vowels, and several diacritic symbols. Most consonants have reduced or modified forms, called sub-consonants, when they occur as the second member of a consonant cluster. Vowels may be written before, after, over, or under a consonant symbol.

Some efforts to standardize Khmer spelling have been attempted, but inconsistencies persist, and many words have more than one accepted spelling. A two-volume dictionary prepared under the direction of the Venerable Chuon Nath of the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh is the standard work on Khmer lexicography.

Khmer is divided into three historical stages: Old Khmer (seventh to twelfth century A.D.), Middle Khmer (twelfth to seventeenth century A.D.), and Modern Khmer (seventeenth century to the present). It is likely that Old Khmer was the language of Chenla. The language of Funan was most probably a Mon-Khmer language. The earliest inscription in Khmer, found at Angkor Borei in Takev Province south of Phnom Penh, dates from A.D. 611.

Consonants and Sub-consonants[edit | edit source]

There are thirty-three letters in the Cambodian writing system. They are arranged in five groups according to the position of the articulation, proceeding from the back to the front of the mouth, and a sixth group labeled as miscellaneous. The consonants in modern Cambodian are also divided into two categories or series. The first series is voiceless and the second series is voiced (sometimes are called light voiced and heavy voiced).

When two consonants are pronounced consecutively within a word, the second consonant's symbol is written in a special sub-consonant form which is placed below the first consonant. The sub-consonant always follows the consonant in the pronunciation. The form of the sub-consonant is in most cases a smaller version of its consonant version but some look completely different from the superscript.

The table below provides the symbol of all consonants sounds in IPA symbol with the first and second series sound, and the corresponding sub-consonant form.

Cambodian Alphabet
Num Cons/Sub IPA Pronunciation Series
1 ក្ ្ក k 1
2 ខ្ ្ខ kʰā 1
3 គ្ ្គ g go 2
4 ឃ្ ្ឃ gʰo 2
5 ង្ ្ង ŋ ŋo 2
6 ច្ ្ច c 1
7 ឆ្ ្ឆ cʰā 1
8 ជ្ ្ជ j jo 2
9 ឈ្ ្ឈ jʰo 2
10 ញ្ ្ញ ñ ño 2
11 ដ្ ្ដ ṭā 1
Cambodian Alphabet
Num Cons/Sub IPA Pronunciation Series
12 ឋ្ ្ឋ ṭʰ ṭʰā 1
13 ឌ្ ្ឌ ḍo 2
14 ឍ្ ្ឍ ḍʰ ḍʰo 2
15 ណ្ ្ណ n 1
16 ត្ ្ត្ t 1
17 ថ្ ្ថ្ tʰā 1
18 ទ្ ្ទ d do 2
19 ធ្ ្ធ dʰo 2
20 ន្ ្ន n no 2
21 ប្ ្ប b 1
22 ផ្ ្ផ bʰā 1
Cambodian Alphabet
Num Cons/Sub IPA Pronunciation Series
23 ព្ ្ព p po 2
24 ភ្ ្ភ pʰo 2
25 ម្ ្ម m mo 2
26 យ្ ្យ y yo 2
27 រ្ ្រ r ro 2
28 ល្ ្ល l lo 2
29 វ្ ្វ w wo 2
30 ស្ ្ស s 1
31 ហ្ ្ហ h 1
32 ឡ - l 1
33 អ្ ្អ ? 1

Vowels[edit | edit source]

The Cambodian vowel may consist of one or a combination of elements written before, above, below, or after the initial consonant. There are 24 vowels in Khmer. Since the abstract vowel (AA) is embedded in a consonant, there are only 23 vowels shown in the table below. The pronunciation of a vowel in Khmer is determined by the series of the initial consonant that it accompanies.

The pronunciation of a vowel in Cambodian is determined by the two series of consonants (first and second series). The table below provides the symbol of all vowel sounds in IPA symbol with the first and second series sound.

Cambodian Vowels
Vowel Name Serie 1 Serie 2
x Sra? AA AA OO
Sra? aa aa ie
Sra? e e i
Sra? ey ey ii
Sra? e e h
Sra? eh eh hh
Sra? o o u
Sra? ou ou uu
Cambodian Vowels
Vowel Name Serie 1 Serie 2
Sra? ue ue ue
Sra? ae ae ee
Sra? he he he
Sra? ie ie ie
Sra? ei ei ee
Sra? ae ae EE
Sra? ay ay hy
Sra? ao ao oo
Cambodian Vowels
Vowel Name Serie 1 Serie 2
Sra? aw aw hw
ុំ Sra? om om um
Sra? Am Am um
ាំ Sra? am am oe(m
Sra? ah ah ee(h
ុះ Sra? oh oh uh
េះ Sra? eh eh ih
ោះ Sra? Ah Ah uh

Independent Vowels[edit | edit source]

Independent vowels are known as /Sra? phñ tue/ (complete vowel) because they incorporate both an initial consonant and a vowel. In the table below, independent vowel from 1 to 5 and 10 to 11 include an initial /q-/ and are listed in the official dictionary along with other words that are spelled with an initial G and the equivalent vowel. Independent vowel 6 and 7 include an initial /r/ and are listed in the official dictionary along with an initial r and the equivalent vowel. Independent vowel 8 and 9 includes an initial /l/ and are listed in the official dictionary along with an initial consonant l .

Independent Vowels
Vowel Name Pronunciation
Sra? e ?e
Sra? ey ?qey
Sra? o ?o
Sra? ao ?ao
Sra? ew ?ew
ប្ញ Sra? rhk rhk
Sra? rhh rhh
ព្ញ Sra? lhk lhk
Sra? lhh lhh
Sra? ae ?ae
ព្ធ Sra? ay ?ay

Diacritics[edit | edit source]

Bantaq ( ់ )[edit | edit source]

Diacritic Bantaq occurs on the top of the final consonant of a syllable and it is used to shorten the vowel of that syllable. All Khmer consonant there is an inherent vowel. The inherent vowel for first series consonant is /AA/ and second consonant is /OO/. In a syllable with invisible vowe, bantaq signalls the short inherent vowel. For example, vowel /AA/ change to /A/ after a first series consonant, and /OO/ change to /u/ or /u(e/ after the second series consonant. The vowel ( - a ) /aa/ followed by the Bantaq ( ' ) will pronounced shorter /a/ after the first series consonant and after the second series consonant, vowel ( -a ) /aa/ is pronounced /o(e/ or /e(e/.

Treysap ( ៊ )[edit | edit source]

Treysap is used to convert four of the first series consonants s h b and G which have no second series counterpart to the second series consonant s~ h~ b~ and G~ .

Mousekatoan ( ៉ )[edit | edit source]

Mousekatoan is used to convert six of the second series consonants g Baj m y r and v which has no second series counterparts to first series consonants g" Baj"" m" y" r" and v" . Mousekatoan is used to convert a first series consonant b to b" and from which b" has the conterpart in the second series B .

Sanyok-sanha ( ័ )[edit | edit source]

Sanyok-sanha has the same value as the (- a ). It is used in a certain words which borrowed from Pali or Sakrit. Usually, if the final consonant is silent, the words can be spelled with different way. If the sanyok-sanha plus a final y, it is pronounced (ai) in the first series and (ei) in the second series. If the s sanyok-sanha plus a final ( r ) /r/, it is pronounced ( oa).

Robaat ( ៌ )[edit | edit source]

Robaat is the reflex of an origanal /r/ in Sanskrit words. In most words, when the (robaat) occurs over a final consonant, both the consonant and the robaat are not pronounced. In some cases, the effect of the robaat is to change the vowel/OO/ to /Oe/. When the robaat appears over a medial consoant, the robaat is pronounced.

Punctuation[edit | edit source]

Khan ( ។ )[edit | edit source]

This is Cambodian full stop. It occurs less frequently than the full stop in English. It can be at the end of a single sentence or several sentences dealing with a single topic.

bāriyaosān ( ៕ )[edit | edit source]

Bāriyaosān is a full stop that marks the the entire end of a chapter or an entire text.

Laq (។ល។ )[edit | edit source]

Laq is used to indicate "etcetera".

Leiktoo ( ៗ )[edit | edit source]

Leiktoo is used to indicate that the word or phrase after which it occurs is to be repeated.

Numbers[edit | edit source]

Ordinals[edit | edit source]

Cambodian numeral system based on five. From 6 to 9 is form by 5 + 1, 5 + 2, 5 + 3, and 5 + 4.

Number 7 is pronounced (prampii) in reading or formal speech; in mormal speech it pronounced (pramphl).

10,000 (muey mehn ) also can be counted as (dAp po).

100,000 (muey saen ) can be counted as ( dAp mehn ) or (muey rOOy po)

From 11-19 the numbers are pronounced in two different forms, the written and a colloquial.

In Cambodian numerals involving four or more symbols, a period is placed after every three symbols, counting from the right.

Khmer Number Name Number Colloquial
សូន្យ /soun/ 0
មួយ /muey/ 1
ពីរ /pii/ 2
បី / bey/ 3
បួន / buen/ 4
ប្រាំ /pram/ 5
ប្រាំមួយ /pram-muey/ 6
ប្រាំពីរ /pram-pii/ 7
ប្រាំបី /pram-bey/ 8
ប្រាំបួន /pram-buen/ 9
១០ ដប់ / dAp/ 10
១១ ដប់មួយ / dAp muey/ 11 /muey dAndAp /
១២ ដប់ពីរ / dAp pii/ 12 /pii dAndAp /
១៣ ដប់បី / dAp bey/ 13 /bey dAndAp /
១៤ ដប់បួន / dAp buen/ 14 /buen dAndAp /
១៥ ដប់ប្រាំ / dAp pram/ 15 /pram dAndAp /
១៦ ដប់ប្រាំមួយ / dAppram muey/ 16 /pram muey dAndAp /
១៧ ដប់ប្រាំពីរ / dAp pram pii/ 17 /pramphl dAndAp /
១៨ ដប់ប្រាំបី / dAp pram bey/ 18 /pram bey dAndAp /
១៩ ដប់ប្រាំបួន / dAp pram buen/ 19 /pram buen dAndAp /
២០ ម្ភៃ /mephhy/ 20
២១ ម្ភៃមួយ /mephhy muey/ 21
៣០ សាមសិប / saamsep/ 30
៣១ សាមសិបមួយ / saamsep muey/ 31
៤០ សែសិប /saesep/ 40
៤១ សែសិបមួយ / saesep muey/ 41
៥០ ហាសិប / haasep/ 50
៥១ ហាសិបមួយ / haasep muey/ 51
៦០ ហុកសិប / hoksep/ 60
៦១ ហុកសិបមួយ / hoksep muey/ 61
៧០ ចិតសិប / cetsep/ 70
៧១ ចិតសិបមួយ / cetsep muey/ 71
៨០ ប៉ែតសិប /paetsep/ 80
៨១ ប៉ែតសិបមួយ / paetsep muey/ 81
៩០ កៅសិប /kawsep/ 90
៩១ កៅសិបមួយ / kawsep muey/ 91
១០០ មួយរយ /muey rOOy/ 100
១០១ មួយរយមួយ / muey rOOy muey/ 101
១.០០០ មួយពាន់ / muey po(en/ 1,000
១០.០០០ មួយម៉ឺន / muey mehn/ 10,000
១០០.០០០ មួយសែន / muey saen/ 100,000
១.០០០.០០០ មួយលាន / muey lien/ 1,000,000

Cardinals[edit | edit source]

The particle ទី (tii) is used to place in front of ordinal number in order to change the ordinal number to Khmer cardinal number.

Khmer Number Ordinal Name Ordinal Number Cardinal Name Cardinal Number
មួយ /muey/ 1 ទីមួយ /tii muey/ 1st
ពីរ /pii/ 2 ទីពីរ /tii pii/ 2nd
បី /bey/ 3 ទីបី /tii bey/ 3nd
បួន /buen/ 4 ទីបួន /tii buen/ 4th
ប្រាំ /pram/ 5 ទីប្រាំ /tii pram/ 5th

Currency[edit | edit source]

Cambodian has its own currency, called រៀល /riel/. There are the following types of bank notes or ក្រដាសប្រាក់ /kratāsbrāk/:

  • 100 riel = ១០០ រៀល
  • 200 riel = ២០០ រៀល
  • 500 riel = ៥០០ រៀល
  • 1000 riel = ១.០០០ រៀល
  • 2000 riel = ២.០០០ រៀល
  • 5000 riel = ៥.០០០ រៀល
  • 10000 riel = ១០.០០០ រៀល
  • 20000 riel = ២០.០០០ រៀល
  • 50000 riel = ៥០.០០០ រៀល
  • 100000 riel = ១០០.០០០ រៀល