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Be grateful our native tongue has survived

Dear Editor,

I am writing to comment. and expand. on what Theary Seng wrote in her commentary.

First, I agree there are many impolite words in the Khmer language, especially when people want to express their anger or contempt, but this is no different from any other language.

We should, however, recognise that Khmer words are used according to the hierarchy of society and social status. Words vary, depending on whether one  is addressing  monks, the king,  parents, friends or younger people.

Educated  city-dwellers  tend to use more polite words than poor, less educated  people do, but the Khmer Rouge killed most of the knowledgeable urban Cambodians.

The Khmer language itself also fell victim to the Khmer Rouge regime, which targeted people who used polite words they considered the language of  feudalists and capitalists.

Nevertheless, as they become more educated, Cambodians are trying to use words that match their status.

Second, Cambodians should be proud that our language managed to escape the French’s alleged attempt to romanise Khmer script. This allows us to relate our writing to that of the glorious Angkorean period.

Khmer probably tops  the list as the language with the most consonants and vowels, with  a total of 72.

Together with the fact it is not a tonal language, this abundance of consonants and vowels allows us to transliterate and pronounce most foreign words without much difficulty.

We can, for example, clearly say “fried rice” instead of “flied lice”.

Third, the Khmer language does have a clear writing style and structure that follows the “subject + verb + object” order.

I believe many other scholars have in-depth knowledge about our Khmer language. They may share their views on

Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Director , Cambodia Institute
for Media Studies

Send letters to: or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.



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