Romanization of Khmer

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Khmer romanization refers to the representation of the Khmer (Cambodian) language using letters of the Latin (Roman) alphabet. Romanization of Khmer is usually applied to Khmer proper nouns such as names of people and geographical names as in a gazetteer.

Romanization Systems for Khmer[edit]

Geographical Cambodian names are often romanized with a transliteration system. An issue seen with the transliteration of Khmer is the results not always reflecting standard Khmer pronunciation as transliteration is a system that maps one script onto another script. It does not always take into account examples such as unpronounced letters and irregular pronunciations, although the two registers of Khmer vowel symbols are often taken into account.

When using transcription, words are romanized based on the pronunciation. However, pronunciation of Khmer can vary by speaker and region. Transcription of Khmer is often done ad hoc on Internet forums and chatrooms (i.e. ad hoc romanizations) and referred to as Khmenglish or Khmerlish. These ad hoc romanizations are usually based on English phonetics. Sometimes, the International Phonetic Alphabet is used to transcript Khmer words based on either their Khmer spellings or their pronunciations.

Khmer romanization using the system from United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names can be seen in most recent maps with Cambodian geographical names and in the newer gazetteers.
ALA-LC Romanization Tables
From the American Library Association and Library of Congress -- the system for romanizing Khmer uses the original Indic values of Khmer letter for romanization which are totally different from their modern values. The advantage of this system is that it is possible for etmylogical reconstruction of Sanskrit and Pali loanwords whose pronunciation may be totally different in modern Khmer, (e.g. Kampuchea and Kambuja).
This is also call Transliteration System for Khmer Script. This system of transliteration is a modification of that proposed by Lewitz (1969), and was developed by Franklin Huffman of Cornell University and Edwin Bonsack of the U.S. Library of Congress for the use of Librarians in cataloguing publications in Khmer. A transliteration system, unlike the transcription system, is not based on pronunciation, but is rather a one-to-one of the symbols of one writing system to those of another writing system. The great disadvantage of this system is that, being based on the original values of the Indic characters in which Khmer was first written, it obscures the pronunciation of modern Khmer; its advantages are its relative simplicity and the fact that is makes possible the etymological reconstruction - although not the current usage - of Pali and Sanskrit loanwords in Khmer.
Service Géographique Khmer
From the Khmer Geographical Service based in Cambodia.
the United States Board on Geographic Names & Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use
Applied IPA
Various attempts have been made to modify the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA to transcribe Khmer. The widespread use of J.M. Filippi's 2004 Textbook Khmer au quotidien, a.k.a., Everyday Khmer (Funan Editions: Phnom Penh) has resulted in a classroom pseudo-standard that follows IPA in its broad outlines (e.g., marking long vowels with the triangular colon), but also digresses from it for reasons the textbook leaves unexplained (e.g., perhaps due to widespread familiarity with certain assumptions inherited from the aforementioned Pali etymological tradition, e.g., rendering "ch" sounds as Roman /c/).


Consonants Subscript form Official (1956) Official (1993) UNGEGN IPA
្ក c g
្ខ k k khâ kʰɑ
្គ c g
្ឃ k k khô kʰɔ
្ង ng ng ngô ŋɔ
្ច g j châ
្ឆ sh ch chhâ cʰɑ
្ជ g j chô
្ឈ sh ch chhô cʰɔ
្ញ ny gn nhô ɲɔ
្ដ d d ɗɑ
្ឋ t t thâ tʰɑ
្ឌ d d ɗɔ
្ឍ t t thô tʰɔ
្ណ n n
្ត t t
្ថ t t thâ tʰɑ
្ទ t t
្ធ t t thô tʰɔ
្ន n n
្ប b b ɓɑ
្ផ p p phâ pʰɑ
្ព p p
្ភ p p phô pʰɔ
្ម m m
្យ y y
្រ r r
្ល l l
្វ v v
្ឝ s s shâ -
្ឞ s s ssô -
្ស s s
្ហ h h
្ឡ * l l
្អ - - ʔɑ

* The consonant has no subscript form, but some Khmer fonts do provide a subscript form for this letter. In Khmer orthography, the subscript form of the consonant is not used.

Issues and tradeoffs with romanization[edit]

Many Khmer dependent vowel symbols represent two phonemes and some phonemes can be represented by more than one symbol (letter); hence, it is sometimes impossible to revert the romanization to the Khmer script. Virtually all romanization systems for Khmer use the letter H to represent a final aspirate but many ad hoc romanizers often prefer to use the letter S to represent it (e.g. kâoh vs. koss).


External links[edit]

Links to romanization tables[edit]