Cambodian Language/Writing System

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Introduction[edit]

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]

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
12 ឋ្ ្ឋ ṭʰ ṭʰā 1
13 ឌ្ ្ឌ ḍo 2
14 ឍ្ ្ឍ ḍʰ ḍʰo 2
15 ណ្ ្ណ n 1
16 ត្ ្ដ t 1
17 ថ្ ្ប 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
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]

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 Sraq AA AA OO
xា Sraq aa aa ie
xិ Sraq e e i
xី Sraq ey ey ii
xឹ Sraq e e h
xឺ Sraq eh eh hh
xុ Sraq o o u
xូ Sraq ou ou uu
xួ Sraq ue ue ue
េ xីី Sraq ae ae ee
េ xឿ Sraq he he he
េ xៀ Sraq ie ie ie
េ x Sraq ei ei ee
ែ x Sraq ae ae EE
ៃ x Sraq ay ay hy
េ xា Sraq ao ao oo
េ xៅ Sraq aw aw hw
xុំ Sraq om om um
xំ Sraq Am Am um
xាំ Sraq am am oe(m
xះ Sraq ah ah ee(h
xុះ Sraq oh oh uh
េ xះ Sraq eh eh ih
េ xាះ Sraq Ah Ah uh

Independent Vowels[edit]

Independent vowels are known as /sraq phñ tue/ (complete vowel) becasue 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
sraq e qe
sraq ey qey
sraq o qo
sraq ao qao
sraq ew qew
ប្ញ sraq rhk rhk
sraq rhh rhh
ព្ញ sraq lhk lhk
sraq lhh lhh
sraq ae qae
ព្ធ sraq ay qay

Diacritics[edit]

The Bantaq ( ' )[edit]

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. Froexample, vowel /AA/ change to /A/ after afirst series consoant, 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 consoant and after the second series consonant, vowel ( -a ) /aa/ is pronounced /o(e/ or /e(e/.

Treysap( ~ )[edit]

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]

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]

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 pronouced ( oa).

Robaat ( ` )[edit]

Robaat is the reflex of an origanal /r/ in Sanskrit words. In most words, when the (robaat) occurs over a final cononant, 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 pronouced.

Punctuation[edit]

Khan ( . )[edit]

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.

baariyaosaan ( .l )[edit]

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

Laq (.l. )[edit]

Laq is used to indicate et cetera.

Leiktoo ( [ )[edit]

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

Numbers[edit]

Ordinals[edit]

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 pronouced (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.

Ordinals
Khmer Number Name Number Colloquial
សូន /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]

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

Cardinals
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]

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