Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Be grateful our native tongue has survived



Be grateful our native tongue has survived

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 www.cjrenglish.wordpress.com.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Director , Cambodia Institute
for Media Studies

Send letters to: [email protected] 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.

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there

  • Cambodia lauded for fight against Covid-19

    Cambodia has drawn global accolades for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new report finding that the Kingdom has controlled the pandemic better than any other country in Asia. Dr Takeshi Kasai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Western Pacific region,