Kailin member of the Khmeric branch of the
Professor Sasha Eloi
12 December 2017
In the following paper, I
will be investigating the Khmer language.
Khmer, also called Cambodian
or Central Khmer, is the official language of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is a
language with many dialects. Khmer Kandal (Central Khmer) is the standard dialect
spoken by people from the main cities such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Other
dialects include Khmer Krom (Southern Khmer, spoken in the Mekong Delta region
of Vietnam), Khmer Surin (Northern Khmer, spoken in eastern Thailand),
Battambang Khmer (spoken in the Battambang region), Khmer Keh (spoken in the
Stung Treng province of Cambodia), and Cardamom Khmer (Western Khmer, spoken in
the south-west of Cambodia) (Simons and Fennig; Sidwell).
Khmer belongs to the
Austroasiatic family and is the only member of the Khmeric branch of the family
(Wayland and Jongman 182). As of 2015, there are 16 million speakers of Khmer
in Cambodia, of which 15 million are native speakers, and 1 million use Khmer
as a second language. Globally, there are more than 17 million speakers of
Khmer, with more than 16 million being native speakers, and 1 million who speak
Khmer as a second language (Simons and Fennig).
Khmer is the statutory
national language of Cambodia and is the standard dialect (Simons and Fennig;
Sidwell). It has a writing system featuring the Khmer alphabet. The Khmer
alphabet is developed from the Pallava script which is descended from the
Brahmi script of ancient India (Ager). There is not much information about
whether Khmer serves as a lingua franca or not. I believe that Khmer
does not serve as a lingua franca, because as it is the official language of Cambodia, people from
different regions of Cambodia all speak Khmer. However, according to Suwilai,
Khmer is also spoken in Vietnam and Thailand by a large group of people (129).
Therefore, by definition, Khmer can serve as a lingua franca for those
who are also native speakers of Vietnamese and Thai. There is not much
literature on the subject, but I do not believe that Khmer has faced the
problem of becoming nearly extinct.
Khmer has a head-complement
(SVO) word order (Simons and Fennig; Thompson). It does not have agreement –
neither verb conjugations nor noun inflections (Rose). Khmer nouns and verbs
are typically not marked (Thompson). Below are two SVO examples showing neither
agreement nor case-marking (Haiman 204):
“krabej kravi: kba:l “ka’se’kaw: samlap ko:n cru:k
water.buffalo shake head farmer kill child pig
“The water buffalo shakes its head”” “(The) farmer(s) kills/killed (the) piglet(s)””
The Khmer language is an
isolating language (Haiman and Ourn) which means there is one single morpheme
per word. Below are three examples (Haiman 43):
“neak a:n puak neak neak toh tiaj
person read group person person predict
“reader” “people” “prognosticator”
that I find interesting about the Khmer language is its numeral system. 1 to 10
in Khmer would be: mu?j (1), pii
(2), b?i (3), bu?n (4), pram (5), pram mu?j (6 = 5+1), pram pii (7 = 5+2), pram b?i (8 = 5+3), pram bu?n (9 = 5+4), dap (10) (Thompson). Notice that
from 6 to 9, it is based on an addition of 5. Furthermore, 16 would be dap pram
and 19 would be dap pram bu?n (10+5+4).
“Khmer (Cambodian) Alphabet, Pronunciation and Language.” Omniglot:
The Online Encyclopedia of Writing Systems and Languages, 2017,
www.omniglot.com/writing/khmer.htm. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017,
John. Cambodian: Khmer. Illustrated ed., John Benjamins Publishing,
John, and Noerng Ourn. “Nouns, Verbs and Syntactic Backsliding in
Khmer.” Studies in Language, vol. 27, no. 3, 2003, pp. 505-528.
Jordan. “Khmer Syntax.” CHIGAIJIN, 2017,
chigaijin.theancora.net/2011/11/Khmer-Syntax/. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.
Paul. “The Khmer (Cambodian) Language.” “Mon-Khmer Language Family”
Lecture Series, June 2006,
Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.
F., and Charles D. Fennig. “Khmer: A Language of Cambodia.” Ethnologue:
Languages of the World, Twentieth Edition, SIL International, 2017,
www.ethnologue.com/language/khm. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.
Premsrirat. “Linguistic Contributions to the Study of the Northern Khmer
Language of Thailand in the Last Two Decades.” Mon-Khmer Studies: A
Journal of Southeast Asian Languages, vol. 27, 1997, pp. 129-136.
Irene. “Khmer – About World Languages.” About World Languages,
Technology Development Group, 2016, aboutworldlanguages.com/khmer. Accessed 10
Ratree, and Allard Jongman. Acoustic Correlates of Breathy and Clear Vowels:
The Case of Khmer. vol. 31, , 2003,