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Khmer writing

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


Khmer, the national language of Cambodia, has a literary tradition that goes back to the seventh century ce . Its script is a syllabic alphabet derived from the brāhmī writing through the southern Indian Pallava script which is first attested in Old Khmer inscriptions dating from 611 ce . Over the centuries a distinct system evolved with some properties not found in other syllabic alphabets of the Indian type. The most conspicuous characteristic of the Khmer system is that it makes use of two series of C graphemes ( table 14 ). Originally these corresponded to the series of graphemes for voiced and unvoiced phonemes in Indian scripts, but in the Khmer script they serve a different function. Those of the first series have an inherent / a / and those of the second series an inherent / o /. This twin representation of Cs in two parallel series of equivalent letters has consequences for the representation of Vs. V indication follows the general Indian pattern of diacritic satellites grouped around the basic C graph ( table 15 ). However, the value of the V diacritic is determined by the series of the C graph to which it is added. Independent V graphemes are pronounced with initial glottal stop, transcribed as q in table 16 . C dusters are written with subscript ligatures. In most cases the subscript graphs are smaller versions of the standard graphs, but some subscripts no longer ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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