Cambodian Alphabet

Get to know about the Cambodian script and its origins as we cover the historical development of the Cambodian alphabet.

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. It is a language that has sprung out from the Austro-Asiatic fountain head and is considered to be the second most widely spoken language springing from this source. There are around ten million people that speak the language.

Sanskrit and Pali have had a major influence on the development of Khmer as a language. The royal and religious registers from the Buddhist and Hindu religions have strong links with the language.

Khmer is considered to be one of the earliest written languages from the Mon-Khmer family. In fact the written records of Khmer as a language predate those of Mon. The geographical location of Cambodia also brought about influences from its neighboring regions. Thailand, Loas, Cham and Vietnam have been the most notable of nations to have influenced the language.

Aslar Khmer is the name of the script that is used to write down the Khmer language. Delving into the linguistic study of Khmer we find that it can be divided into four main periods of development. The Pre-Angkorian period up until the Proto Mon Khmer period was a time when the language existed in the form of words and phrases only. Then there is the period known as Old Khmer which was prevalent during the 9th century up until the 13th century.

Old Khmer has undergone extensive research and study by scholars from around the world. Over the years however Old Khmer underwent major changes especially in consideration to its lexicon, phonology as well as the morphology. This brought about a revolutionary change in the Khmer alphabet.

The Middle Khmer period that lasted from the 14th century up to the 18th century also saw a series of important developments in the language. It was during these years that the language was heavily influenced by its neighboring countries. The changes that took place during these years make it seem as though the modern Khmer language has no connection with the language as it was back in those days. The Khmer alphabet as it exists today came into shape after the turn of the nineteenth century.

Today Khmer exists as one of the many eastern branches of the Mon Khmer family. This family itself falls under the umbrella of the Austro Asiatic group of languages. This group of languages encompasses many areas extending from India to the Malay Peninsula. The writing of Khmer as a language in its current form was formalized in the 19th century.

The script used to write the language is named after the language itself. It derives its inspiration from the Pallava script that existed in India back in the seventh century. In terms of its appearance the Cambodian alphabet bears strong similarities with the Thai and Lao alphabet. The Khmer script is the official writing style of the language and it is also used to write some of the hill tribe languages that have no writing system of their own.