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Old Khmer dictionary nearly done

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The National Language Institute’s technical research task force has been working on the Angkorian Old Khmer dictionary since 2005. RAC

Old Khmer dictionary nearly done

The National Language Institute (NLI) at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) plans to publish a 2,200-page Angkorian Old Khmer dictionary during the first half of 2021.

The typeface that will be used for the words in this dictionary is the result of research that was done on ancient Khmer-language inscription stones from the ninth century to the 14th century.

NLI director Meakh Bora, who spearheaded the technical research task force that compiled this dictionary, told The Post on December 22 that they had been working on the project since 2005 and that they expect to complete the work by the end of this year.

“We can publish it next year. The task force to research and compile this dictionary is comprised of seven members. They all are part of the NLI working group,” he said.

Bora added that the focus of this dictionary was fundamental language elements such as vocabulary words from the Angkor era.

They inventoried how many words they had encountered from the Angkor era in their research and which part of speech they happened to be — such as verbs, nouns, adjectives, or prepositions.

They also documented Angkor era punctuation.

“We don’t create words on our own. We take ancient words that have been used on inscription stones to interpret their definitions and then translate them into present meanings,” he said.

Bora continued that this dictionary consisted of over 19,000 Angkorian Old Khmer words. The words were taken from ancient inscription stones from the ninth century to the 14th century.

Many of the words are place names, such as the names of ancient cities. One example is “indrabora” which means a greater or better city in the older Khmer variant. The study of place names is called toponymy and the words themselves toponyms.

Other words in the dictionary are related to various people or categories of people from the Angkor era, from the most important such as gods, kings or officials on down to people of lesser note such as servants.

“This dictionary will provide a lot of help to researchers, especially those studying [Angkorian Old] Khmer language or literature, but also for researchers studying ancient sites and so on,” he said.

Bora said that after the publication of the dictionary in print, the RAC will turn it into an e-dictionary and mobile app that will give easy and convenient access for researchers who study inscription stones and people trying to become literate in Angkorian Old Khmer, at no cost.

Khmer Writers Association president Proeung Pranit supported the work of the researchers to compile this dictionary, saying: “Previously, Cambodia had not yet had a dictionary interpreting the [Angkorian Old] Khmer language from sources such as these inscription stones.

“Institutions and researchers have often interpreted the words on the inscription stones differently. So, this dictionary will greatly assist collaboration between researchers studying the history of our nation.”

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