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Khmer - Cambodia's Official Language
Cambodia is a small nation in Southeast Asia of about 15 million citizens tucked in between Thailand on the west and northwest, Laos on the northeast, Vietnam on the east and the Gulf of Thailand on the south.
The main ethnic group inhabiting Cambodia is the Khmer (pronounced Kh'mai) ethnic group which makes about 90% of the nation's population. The official language of Cambodia is the Khmer (Kh'mai) language. This hub introduces the reader to the Khmer language.
Ancient Khmer Script
History of Khmer Script
First appearing in the 7th century CE, the Khmer script was one of the earliest writing systems used in Southeast Asia. It was originally derived from the Pali and Sanskrit script from ancient India before being refined to its current version.
The Khmer script has 33 consonant symbols (see consonant diagram below). The 33 consonants are divided into primary and secondary sounds and each have a subscript version used when blending consonants like "sp" in space or "cr" in crane.
Consonants with Subscripts
Dependent Vowel Symbols
The Khmer Script also has 21 dependent and nine independent vowel symbols. Each of the 21 dependent vowel symbols can be pronounced one of two different ways depending on whether it is tied to a primary or secondary consonant. The English translations for each symbol in terms of pronunciation are under each symbol pictured in the illustrations below.
Creating a Word in Khmer Script
In order to form a word in Khmer language script,
- Write the consonant
- Add consonant subscript(s) (if the word has a consonant blend)
- Add the necessary vowel symbol.