Khmer Alphabet

What are Cambodia and the Khmer people?

The Khmer people were part of the Khmer empire, and make up the cultural integrity of over 90% of the people in Cambodia. Cambodia speaks the Khmer language, which uses the alphabet of the larger Austroasiatic-language family found in other popular nations of Southeast Asia, which includes Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia. The Khmer language and alphabet are also used in parts of India, Bangladesh, and even some regions in Southern China.

The Khmer people follow the Theravada Buddhism religion, which has been the dominant religion for hundreds of years. Other than Cambodia, there are significant amounts of populations found in Thailand and Vietnam. There are also many Khmers and Cambodians living in France, the United States, and Australia. The legend behind the creation of Cambodia was about an Indian Brahmin priest by the name of Kaudinya, who had married Princess Soma and further sailed to Southeast Asia, which he had followed in a prophesied dream. The priest had conquered the army of the princess and fell in love with her.

As a dowry before the marriage, the father of Soma drank the waters floating near the island at the top of a mountain. At that moment, the sky had cleared and revealed the land beneath it, which became Cambodia.

What is the Khmer Language?

The Khmer language is the official language of the nation of Cambodia. It is extremely influenced by Pali and Sanskrit, especially through Buddhist and Hindu texts. It is not uncommon for languages to develop due to the need for communication between scholars and religious leaders. The lion's share of the Khmers speaks a section of the dialogue called Central Khmer, which is where most of the Khmer people are concentrated. Outside of Cambodia, there are other dialects by ethnic spoken by ethnic Khmers native to the areas which made up the historical power of the Khmer Empire.

Khmer is a very isolating and analytic language. The alphabet and pronunciations contain no case endings, conjugations, or inflections. Grammatical relationships between words are defined through the use of auxiliary words and other particles. The Khmer language also has classifiers that appear after numbers which are used to count nouns. In spoken Khmer, the language is slightly different because of the social relation between participants which determines a set of vocabulary.

History of the Khmer Language

There are four main periods in history that influenced the Khmer language. Old Khmer was spoken between 600CE and 800CE. Modern Khmer was first used in the 19th century when it had drastically emerged from middle Khmer due to the heavy influence of French colonialism. Before this, Thailand had a large part of the developing Khmer language due to its strong control of the region. In 1887, Cambodia had been fully inducted into the French Indochina region - effectively making it a haven for some French-speaking aristocracy. This meant that French had become the language of the elite and educated class.

After breaking free from French influence in the 20th century, the language has again begun to adopt older versions of words deep-rooted in Khmer and Thai culture.

Khmer Alphabet