Khmer: The Etymology and Uses of the language of Cambodia

Cambodia is a country in the Far East with a population count of 13 million. It neighbors Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. The people living here are called Cambodians, while the language is called Khmer – although, widely known as Cambodian as well. Cambodia was until recently under the rule of the Maoist militant group from its formation as a country and has now emerged free after a long civil war.

Uses of the Khmer Language

90% of the Cambodian people speak the Khmer which is the official language in the country, and the one that’s used in the media, government administration, as well as in schools. When it comes to the uses of the Khmer language, it is worth noting that it is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language, with the first being the Vietnamese language.

Relations to Other Languages

The Khmer language is greatly influenced by the Sanskrit and Pali which are languages that have emerged in ancient India. These were introduced in the country of Cambodia when the Hinduism and Buddhism were on the rise and spreading in the Asian countries. Also, the dialects of the Khmer language is known that are influenced by the Vietnamese, Tumpoon, the Thai, Jarai, the Lao, and the Cham language, because of the geographical position and cross-cultural interactions with the people from these countries. In the United States, the Cambodian, or the Khmer language is spoken by around 276,667 people, according to research by Census.

Currently, as an international language in the world, English is very popular in Cambodia among the younger generations, while French is mostly used by people born before 1975. This is due to the fact that French was once the official language in Indochina. Now, many still use it because the French government funds schools and universities in Cambodia and the country itself is a member of the La Francophonie – an organization of countries or regions where a significant portion of the population speaks French. Now, French is still used in certain official occasions in Cambodia, such as in court environments. However, English is now the language used in the country’s diplomatic affairs with other countries.

The Written Language of Khmer

The Khmer has records of its written form dating back from the 7th century AD with a script developed in South India. It has an astonishing number of 74 letters, making it the longest alphabet in the world, and is written from left to right without any spacing in between the words that are within the same phrase or sentence. The numbers that they use are very similar to those used in the rest of the countries in Southeast Asia, derived from the southern Indian script. The Arabic numerals are also used, but not as often as the previous ones.

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