Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

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Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 04 Jul 2013 12:15

Image

Following Shemtov's lead with his wonderful thread on learning the Hebrew Alphabet, I've decided to make a thread dedicated to providing lessons on learning to read the Khmer script, one of the most absurdly complicated writing systems I've ever come across. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that the IPA transcriptions on the Khmer Alphabet page don't even match those on the Khmer Language page. This is an indicator of things to come, so get ready.

Table of Contents:
* Part 1: Standard consonants
* Part 2: Subscript consonants
* Part 3: Vowels: long a, and the ɓɑntɑk diacritic
* Part 4: Vowels: <i> signs
* Part 5: Vowels: <u> signs
* Vowel review table 1
* Part 6: Vowels: <e> signs and other associated signs
* Part 7: Vowels: miscellaneous <a> signs
* Part 8: Vowels: compounds with <e> signs, including the <o> vowels
* Vowel review table 2
* Part 9: The aspiration sign reəh mʊk
* Part 10:The nasal sign nikkeəʔhet
* Part 11: Switching
* Part 12: Independent vowel signs
* Part 13: Miscellaneous diacritics
* Part 14: Numerals and punctuation, and three letters you’ll never use
* Part 15: The decorative script: aksɑː muːl

Khmer script is an alphasyllabary descended from the Pallava family of Brahmic scripts and is closely related to Thai and Lao scripts, but with very significant differences. Unlike most Southeast Asian languages, Khmer is not a tonal language, so the representation of tones is not a concern. However, historical sound changes and the fact that the Indic languages are very different from Khmer have led to a number of complexities that make this an extremely difficult script to learn.

The script contains 33 standard consonant signs plus two additional letters only used for transcribing Sanskrit, and 16 independent vowel signs (plus a 17th rare one). There are also numerous diacritics for indicating vowels and other things.

Note that for technical reasons I have elected to use a lot of images rather than text. I may increase the use of text later.

Part 1: Standard Consonants

Overview
The Khmer script is an alphasyllabary, which means that each letter in the script represents a consonant combined with a vowel value, much like a syllabary. The default vowel value, as indicated in the chart, is called the inherent vowel. The vowel that follows the consonant can be changed from the inherent vowel to other vowels through the use of various vowel diacritics, but for part 1, we can temporarily forget about the vowel diacritics and simply focus on the basic consonants and the inherent vowels as indicated in the chart:

Image

Notes:
Take care not to confuse ជ with ផ, and ឃ with យ.
ឌ and ឍ are particularly rare and will probably not be encountered.

You will notice that the consonants are divided up into two groups, and the inherent vowel sound differs between the two groups. Based on these vowels, the groups are usually called a-series o-series. As you have probably guessed, memorization of these two groups is essential to reading Khmer, as the groups affect the pronunciation of vowels.

It can be a challenge at first to memorize all of these letters, because many of them share both similar visual elements and pronunciations, but it is necessary to memorize all of these before you can proceed very far.

Syllable-final consonants
Although the Khmer language allows for syllable-final consonants, the modern Khmer script has no way of erasing or eliminating the inherent vowel in order to represent this final consonant unambiguously. This means that syllable-final consonants must simply be recognized as such based on the knowledge and intuition of the reader alone.

Examples:
Image
kʰɑːk - to abstain from; to refrain from

Image
mɔːn - Mon ethnic group

Note that the inherent vowel /ɑː/ is absent from ក /kɑː/, and the /ɔː/ from the ន /nɔː/. There is no unambiguous, visual indication that this vowel has been removed; it simply must be understood implicitly.

Coda consonants are restricted in the standard dialect, though the script does not always represent this clearly: /r/ is dropped entirely at the end of syllables, while syllable-final /s/ is realized as /h/, and /j/ and /ʋ/ generally form diphthongs with the preceding vowel (though in some dialects, /ʋ/ can remain distinct). The only stops that can appear at the end of a syllable are voiceless, unaspirated, unreleased stops, regardless of the value of the letter that may appear there.

In bisyllabic words, if the first vowel is written as an inherent vowel, it is reduced in length:
Image
rɔnɑːp – cross-piece; support; brace (not rɔːnɑːp)


Exercise: Transliterate the following words into IPA:

Image
pole; post; handle; shaft

Image
hand

Image
cornice; ledge; projection; balcony

Image
tube; capsule; cocoon

Image
type of dove

Image
bend over to retrieve something from water

Image
year of the monkey

Image
rustling or crackling sound

Answers:
Spoiler:
ɗɑːŋ, kɑː, ɲɔːk, lɑːt, lɔlɔːk, cʰɔːŋ, ʋɔːk, pʰɑːh
If people are interested in seeing a continuation to this, part 2 will be subscript consonants.
Last edited by clawgrip on 14 Sep 2013 04:50, edited 14 times in total.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by kanejam » 04 Jul 2013 12:30

Hi clawgrip, this looks like a wondeful thread! I know that you have a love of scripts in general and also that your main conlang's is inspired by Khmer. At this moment I'm on my cellphone, so I think I'm missing some important information (my phone has no Khmer script support; I'm not sure about my laptop, I will check tomorrow). Also that huge table is quite a lot for someone with absolutely no familiarity with South- and Southeast Asian scripts to take in. This isn't supposed to be a harsh criticism though and maybe it will make more sense in the morning on my laptop. Anyway, I am definitely interested in a continuation of this and I will do the exercises tomorrow.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 04 Jul 2013 12:34

Thanks, I will perhaps slightly rephrase some things to make it a little easier. Sadly, you really do have to memorize all of those letters before you can proceed very far.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by plathhs » 04 Jul 2013 13:33

Cool! I've always wanted to learn to read Khmer. Looks like it's gonna be a challenge …
I got all the words in the exercise right though.
Bring it on! [:)]

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 05 Jul 2013 12:37

Part 2: Subscript Consonants
Part 1 was easy. Part 2 is where things will begin to get a bit more complicated.

Syllable-initial consonant clusters are common in Khmer. Like many Indic scripts (but notably not Thai or Lao), Khmer orthography indicates clusters of consonants by combining two consonant letters into a single conjunct. These conjuncts are formed by writing the second consonant underneath the first. When a consonant is written underneath the other, it appears in a modified form, which is called a subscript consonant. Many of the subscript consonants resemble the full forms, but a significant number of them do not, and need to be memorized independently.

Here is the full list of subscript consonants in Khmer, with the position of the initial consonant indicated by a dotted circle:

Image

Notes:
* Take care with the subscripts for ប /ɓ/ and យ /j/, whose shapes are counterintuitive and thus easily confused
* ឡ has no subscript form and does not appear in conjuncts
the subscript for រ /r/ actually comes before the letter rather than after it, and is unique in this regard
* ញ is a special case in two respects. When it receives a subscript, its lower curve is removed and replaced by the subscript consonant. However, when ញ forms a conjunct with an additional ញ (i.e. geminated), the subscript is written out in full (as in the image) in order to differentiate it from the standalone letter.
* ដ /ɗ/ and ត /t/ have the same subscript. This is pronounced as /ɗ/, except after ន /nɔː/, where it is pronounced as /t/. Note that it remains /ɗ/ after ណ /nɑː/.
* /ɓ/ and /ɗ/ are never allowed as initial consonants of a cluster, and /k/, /c/, /t/, and /p/ are disallowed except before /r/ or /w/ (possibly others). Some of these letters will still appear in these positions anyway. Simply pronounce the letter as the aspirated stop of its series (<ɓr> is pronounced /pr/). To be honest I get a little confused by this still. It's all allophonic anyway.

Let’s take a look at some conjuncts just to get familiar with their general appearance:

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage
ksɑː, kʰmɑː, plɔː, sdɑː, nnɑː, mcɑː

You may recognize the first two conjuncts from the title image in the first post.

Also, you will find that certain subscripts are far more common than others, and you will encounter them much more frequently than others. This can throw you off when you do eventually meet a less common one and have forgotten what it is.

///Technical Note///
Even if you have Khmer support installed, some browsers may not render conjunct consonants properly. When this happens, a small mark, like a + will appear under the first consonant to be conjoined, and the second will appear in full form.

This means that what should appear as:
Image
may instead appear as:
Image
If you see this, you should recognize it to be a conjunct that is not being displayed properly. It is a computer compatibility issue, not a feature of the script. This is the number one reason I have chosen to go with images instead of plain text.


Pronunciation of inherent vowels
As before, inherent vowels are shortened when they are the first vowel of a bisyllabic word:
Image
ɓɑntɑː (not ɓɑːntɑː)– continue; extend


Determining if clusters are a-series or o-series
Obviously, when an a-series consonant is combined with an a-series subscript, the resulting cluster is also a-series, meaning its inherent vowel is /ɑː/. The same goes for two o-series consonants, which form a cluster with an inherent vowel /ɔː/. The problem is when consonants of differing series are combined. The results are predictable and straightforward, but require some thinking.

You'll notice that I have divided the table up into two groups again, but that these groups differ from the groups in the consonant table from part 1. I have given the orange group the ad hoc designation of dominant, and the other group, passive.

If a cluster contains a dominant subscript, the cluster will adopt the series of that subscript. If a cluster contains a passive subscript, the cluster will instead adopt the series of the main letter.

Examples:

Image
ʔɑŋkɑː - uncooked rice (ង ŋɔː + ក kɑː (dominant) = ង្ក ŋkɑː)

Image
skɔːm – thin; skinny; lean (ស sɑː + គ kɔː (dominant) = ស្គ skɔː)

Image
kʰɲɑːk – clucking of chickens (ខ kʰɑː + ញ ɲɔː (passive) = ខ្ញ kʰɲɑː)


Final conjuncts
Sometimes a conjunct will appear at the end of a word; this is usually the sign of a loanword from Sanskrit, Pali, or French. The Khmer language does not allow syllable-final clusters, so in these cases, you can safely ignore the last consonant. Unfortunately, these are prime locations for vowels to start going crazy, resulting in unpredictable values.

Examples:
Image
kʰan (not the expected kʰɑːn(t)) - division; separation; partition (from Sanskrit khaṇḍ- "cut")

Image
prɑpuən (not prɑpɔːn(t)) – wife (from Sanskrit prabandh "bind; fasten")

Image
ʋɔət (not ʋɔːt(t)) – Buddhist monastery; temple complex ("wat", e.g. Angkor Wat)

EDIT: upon further reflection, it's possible that a final consonant cluster affects the vowel in the same way as the ɓɑntɑk diacritic that you will encounter below. I'm not sure, but I think that's what's going on here.

Note: Some of you have probably rightly noticed that the final cluster in ខណ្ឌ is not unambiguously word-final, as this could be mistakenly read as kʰɑnɗɔː, much like the initial example បន្ត is read ɓɑntɑː, not *ɓɑn. This is a valid concern, though it is somewhat mitigated by the fact that many medial conjuncts will be augmented with vowel diacritics that make clear that a vowel is to follow. In the end, it is still ambiguous, but there are relatively few words with (C)VCCɔː/ɑː.

Occasionally conjuncts just don't even seem to make sense:

Image
neək (not ʔnɑːk) – person; one; someone

Note that this word coexists with an alternate and perfectly regular spelling for the same root, that is used for a different grammatical purpose:
Image
neək
(this is just for reference; don't worry about the diacritics, we'll address them soon)

Anyway you’ll just have to memorize that one.


Exercise: Transliterate the following into IPA:

Image
be older; be senior

Image
be impudent; be arrogant; be offensive

Image
be wide open; be spacious; be empty

Image
be curved and upturned like horns

Image
be beautiful; be well-developed; be flawless

Image
be good

Image
take shelter; take cover; be under someone’s care

Image
candy; sweets

Image
sheets of thatch for a palm leaf mat

Answers:
Spoiler:
cʰɓɑːŋ, kʰnɔːŋ, lhɑː, kʰŋɑː, cʰmɔːŋ, lʔɑː, prɑkɑːp, skɑː, kɑnɗɑːp
After all this work and memorization, you still only know how to write the vowels /ɑ(ː)/ and /ɔ(ː)/. I will address this in part 3, when I will begin to explain the extensive vowel diacritics. I’m looking forward to this, because I will finally be able to expand the pool of words from which I can provide examples. I've been cherry-picking obscure words out of the dictionary simply because they conform to the rules I have taught you thus far.
Last edited by clawgrip on 16 Sep 2015 15:09, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 06 Jul 2013 07:39

Part 3: Vowels: long a, and the ɓɑntɑk diacritic
Khmer has 21 distinct diacritics dedicated to indicating or modifying vowels on consonants, and many of these can be combined to form additional vowel signs. The majority of them are pronounced at least two different ways based on the series of the consonant to which they are attached. I'll ease you in by only tackling two signs: the long a sign, and the ɓɑntɑk sign.

Note that when I introduce new vowel signs, the location of the consonant is always indicated with a dotted circle.

The long a sign
This is the long a sign. Anyone familiar with Thai should recognize it immediately:

Image

Although I call it the long-a sign, that's actually only half the story. It is pronounced in one of two ways, depending on whether it is attached to an a-series letter or an o-series letter.

Its a-series pronunciation is /aː/
Its o-series pronunciation is /iə/

Examples:

a-series consonants:
ImageImageImageImageImage
taː laː naː

o-series consonants:
ImageImageImageImageImage
tiə liə niə

Notice that the vowel sign attaches directly to the consonant (unlike in Thai) and modifies the shape of it slightly if the top-right portion of the letter has a hook-like element. This is standard, but it's not absolutely required. There is, however, one required ligature, and that's with the letter ប /ɓ/. As you can imagine, a ប /ɓ/ combined with ា is going to look almost exactly the same as ហ /h/. In order to avoid this, there is a special, mandatory ligature for /ɓaː/:

Image
ɓaː

This is required for the purpose of visual clarity, so make sure you always use it.

Pretty simple, right? Now let’s take a look at ɓɑntɑk.

ɓɑntɑk
This is what it looks like:
Image

It has no sound by itself, but it modifies the sound of the two vowels we've learned so far (inherent vowel and long a). We'll start with the inherent vowel, because that's easiest.

Earlier you learned that an inherent vowel is shortened when it is first in a bisyllabic word. However, you can shorten the inherent vowel /ɑː/ of an a-series consonant to /ɑ/ even when it's not in this position, simply by using a ɓɑntɑk. The ɓɑntɑk is placed on the consonant following the vowel. Examples:

Image
kɑːk – be hardened; be frozen; be set

Image
kɑk – wash; clean; soak

The /ɔː/ of o-series consonants, however, does not get shortened. Instead, it usually becomes /ʊə/.

Image
rʊət - to run; to flee; to be fast; to function

Image
tŋʊən - to be heavy

(Every source I have transcribes this vowel a different way. I have elected to go with /ʊə/).

I said "usually", because if the final consonant is a /p/, the vowel is simply /ʊ/.

Image
lʊp - bird trap

Now of course, the question is, what happens when we combine the ɓɑntɑk with the long a sign?

Long a sign + ɓɑntɑk
The answer is, of course, slightly complicated.
The a-series is easy. Add a ɓɑntɑk and /aː/ becomes /a/.

Image
ɓat – disappear; go lost; go missing

Combining the long a sign with the ɓɑntɑk on an o-series consonant results in the vowel /ɔə/

Image
kɔət – polite 3rd person pronoun

Naturally, there is one exception: if the final consonant is any of the five /k/, /kʰ/, or /ŋ/ letters, the vowel becomes /eə/:

Image
neək – person (remember this one from Part 2?)


Let's review all of the vowels you have learned so far:

Code: Select all

                         a-series   o-series
inherent                 ɑ(ː)        ɔ(ː)
with long a sign         aː          iə
with bantak              ɑ          ʊə
 -and followed by /p/               ʊ
with long a and bantak   a          ɔə
 -and followed by velar             eə
As you can see, the a-series usually behaves itself and the o-series usually causes trouble. Usually.

Exercise: Transliterate the following into IPA:

Image
to be

Image
to understand

Image
mouth

Image
to be clean; to be nice; to be beautiful

Image
to die

Image
to wash the face

Image
???

Image
to worry about; to care about

Answers:
Spoiler:
ciə, jʊəl, mɔət, sʔaːt, slap, tʊən, ɓɑntɑk, rɔʋʊəl

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by plathhs » 06 Jul 2013 09:21

clawgrip wrote:
Spoiler:
knɔːŋ … cmɔːŋ
Ok, so aspirated plosives are deaspirated in consonant clusters (or at least when initial before nasals)?

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 06 Jul 2013 09:54

This is definitely one aspect of Khmer phonology I admittedly have not mastered. They are supposed to be aspirated, but I am also pretty sure there are at least some locations where they aren't before /r/ and /l/, at least. I had just decided in this case to give up for now and not bother to indicate it either way, since it is allophonic anyway, but I have decided I will add them in where I am sure they belong.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 07 Jul 2013 03:08

Part 4: Vowels: <i> signs
Now that you understand the basics of how vowel signs work, we can move a little more quickly. In this part, I will introduce the four i signs. Again, this is a name I give for the sake of simplicity, as they are of course a little more complex than that.

Here are the four signs. Like the long a sign, those familiar with Thai should easily recognize them:

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage
short i, long i, short ɨ, long ɨ

As you can see they are all based on the short i sign. The long i sign has one vertical line, the short ɨ has a circle, and the long ɨ has two vertical lines. All four of them appear immediately above the letter they are modifying.

Short and long ɨ signs
I will address the two ɨ signs first because they are the most straightfoward:
short ɨ:
Its a-series pronunciation is /ə/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ɨ/

long ɨ:
Its a-series pronunciation is /əɨ/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ɨː/

no exceptions for either one.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage
kʰəŋ – to get angry
ɲɨk – often; frequently; always
ɓəɨt - to inhale to suck in
kɨː - that is; as follows; namely

Long i sign
This one is also pretty straightforward. However, in this case, it is the a-series that has an extra rule.
Its a-series pronunciation is /əi/
Its o-series pronunciation is /iː/

ImageImageImage
ɓəi – three
miːŋ – aunt

I should mention that a book I have suggests that the long i sign can sometimes be pronounced /ə/ in closed syllables for a-series consonants, but I can’t find any examples.

Short i sign
I have saved this one for last because it is a little more complicated.
The default values of this are
a-series /eʔ/
o-series /iʔ/

ImageImageImage
teʔraccʰaːn – beast; brute
niʔjiəj – to speak

However, this is only in open syllables. It is much more commonly encountered in closed syllables, where its values are instead as follows:
a-series /ə/
o-series /ɨ/

ImageImageImage
cən – China
tɨɲ - to buy

You'll notice this means that it is pronounced identically to the short ɨ sign. In fact, you can sometimes find words spelled with either one:
ImageImageImage
both are pronounced nɨŋ and mean "and"

A closed syllable with an initial a-series consonant and a final រ /r/ will take the pronunciation /ei/

Image
sei – head; crest; summit

These are relatively rare, however.

Exercise: Transliterate the following into IPA:

Image
2nd

Image
to be lazy; to be idle; to be disinclined to

Image
bone; skeleton

Image
to be hurt; to be sick; to be in pain

Image
grandfather

Image
ice (remember, we saw the word "to be frozen" in Part 2)

Image
(a given name)

Image
fish

Image
to be difficult

Image
(I) come from Canada

Answers:
Spoiler:
tiː piː, kʰcɨl, cʰʔəŋ, cʰɨː, ciːtaː, tək kɑːk, naːrən, trəi, piʔɓaːk, mɔːk piː kaːnaːɗaː

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 07 Jul 2013 13:44

Part 5: Vowels: <u> signs
This part is about the three vowel signs associated with the /u/ vowel. They look like this:
ImageImageImageImageImage
short u, long u, uə

As you can see, they all appear underneath the letter they attach to. If the letter has a subscript (or is ឡ) they will appear lower down:
Image
In this font it also gets a little scrunched up, but in some typefaces it doesn't.

uə sign
This sign is the simplest one yet. It has only one pronunciation, with no exceptions, for both a-series and o-series: /uə/

ImageImageImage
ɓuən – four
muəj – one

short u sign
The short u sign has two main pronunciations. In open syllables, the pronunciation is:
a-series: /oʔ/
o-series: /uʔ/

ImageImageImage
koʔhɑk – to lie; to tell a lie
ɗuʔɗan – to harass; to disturb; to annoy (look, I got to use ឌ!)

In closed syllables, the pronunciation is essentially the same, except the glottal stop is dropped, and the o-series vowel sounds slightly different:
a-series: /o/
o-series: /ʊ/

ImageImageImage
kʰoh – to be wrong; to be mistaken; to be different
pʊt – Wednesday; the planet Mercury

Also, watch out for this crazy one with its phantom /k/:
Image
tok – table; desk; stand

This is actually not so strange really, since all final consonants are unreleased, so a final /k/ doesn’t sound a whole lot different from a final /ʔ/ anyway.

When it is followed by រ, its a-series pronunciation can be /ao/ or /ol/, while its o-series pronunciation is /ʊl/.

ImageImageImageImageImage
kao – year of the pig
kʰolkʰol – sound of snoring (ៗ is a repeating sign, but we’ll deal with that later)
jʊl – to be drooping; to be dangling

long u sign
This sign has four main pronunciations. The default values are as follows:
a-series /ou/
o-series /uː/

ImageImageImage
ɗoun - grandmother; old lady
juː - to be slow; to be late; to last a long time

When combined with the consonant វ /w/ it is reduced and forms a diphthong:
a-series: /əw/
o-series /ɨw/

ImageImageImage
səw – rather; better; preferably
nɨw – with; by means of; in order to

Exercise: Transliterate the following words into IPA:
Image
teacher

Image
to enter

Image
to be correct; to be proper; should

Image
to be correct; to be right; must

Image
lips (remember we learned "mouth" in Part 3)

Image
prosperity, happiness, abundance, development, progress (I got to use ឌ and ឍ together!)

Image
June

Image
fly (an insect)

Image
papaya

Image
waiter/waitress

Answers:
Spoiler:
kruː, coul, kuə, trəw, ɓɑɓou mɔət, ʋʊttʰiʔ, miʔtʰon, rʊj, lhoŋ, neək rʊət tok

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 07 Jul 2013 14:02

If you're getting confused by all the vowels so far, here is a handy review table:

Image

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by plathhs » 07 Jul 2013 14:10

Ok, now this is getting pretty insane. Especially with all the ə's and ɨ's to keep track of.
Edit: Although that last table is very helpful. [:D]

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 08 Jul 2013 01:18

The vowels tend to centralize when they are reduced, so both /e/ and /o/ can become /ə/, and both /i/ and /u/ can become /ɨ/.

Next up will be the <e> signs.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 08 Jul 2013 06:56

Part 6: Vowels: <e> signs and other associated signs
In this part, I will introduce the three main vowel signs associated with /e/, and two other signs dependent on <e>.
The e vowel signs may be unusual to people unfamiliar with Indic scripts, because they actually appear before the consonant they modify. It is imperative that you do not forget that these signs modify the letter that proceeds them.
Here are the three e signs:
ImageImageImageImageImage
short e, long e, ai sign

They’re really not so bad, so let’s take a look.

short e
Its a-series pronunciation is /ei/
Its o-series pronunciation is /eː/
The only difference here is that the a-series has an offglide, and the o-series doesn’t.

ImageImageImage
ceik – banana
teː - not

In a closed syllable ending in /c/ or /ɲ/, the pronunciation is /ə/, or /ɨ/. I would assume that a-series becomes /ə/ and o-series /ɨ/ except for the fact that there is at least one o-series with /ə/. Perhaps it's irregular.
ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage
cəɲ - to go out; to leave
ɗəɲ - to chase; to hunt; to pursue
ɲɨc - to crush; to break; to pop
tɨɲ - to be tiny
but
ləc - to appear; to come into view; to become evident

long e
Its a-series pronunciation is /ae/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ɛː/

ImageImageImage
kʰmae – Khmer
pʰnɛːk – eye

ai sign
Its a-series pronunciation is /aj/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ej/

ImageImageImage
tʰaj – Thai
mpʰej – twenty

A whole aspect of Khmer vowel signs I haven’t even touched yet is the fact that more than one sign can combine to create a compound vowel sign with a value that merges or in some cases is wholly different from its constituents (isn’t that wonderful?). Again, it's actually not so bad, and people familiar with Indic scripts will recognize that most of them, even Devanagari, combine <a> with <e> to get <o>, which also happens in Khmer.

I’m trying to introduce all the unique vowel signs before I start combining them, so what better way to do it than by introducing two unique vowel signs that must appear alongside the short e sign. Here they are:

ImageImageImageImageImage
short e + ɨə sign, short e + iə sign

The consonant sign appears between the two elements. They may look worrisome, but they’re actually quite tame and can be learned with relative ease.

short e + ɨə sign
Its pronunciation for both a-series and o-series is /ɨə/, no exceptions

ImageImageImage
ɗɨəŋ – narrow road
cɨə - to believe; to trust

short e + iə sign
Its pronunciation for both a-series and o-series is /iə/, no exceptions

ImageImageImage
sliək – to put on pants, shoes, etc.
riəl – riel (Cambodian currency)

Note that you now have all the information you need to read the title at the top of the first post: រៀនអក្សរខ្មែរ.

Exercise: Transliterate the following words into IPA:

Image
dog

Image
time; moment; period

Image
to be expensive; to be valuable

Image
guest; visitor; client

Image
tool; equipment; ingredient

Image
sun; day; daytime

Image
to teach

Image
to be blue

Image
(place name)

Image
passport

Answers:
Spoiler:
cʰkae, peːl, tlaj, pʰɲiəw, krɨəŋ, tŋaj, ɓɑŋriən, kʰiəw, ʋiətnaːm, liʔkʰət cʰlɑːŋ ɗaen
Last edited by clawgrip on 09 Jul 2013 16:11, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 08 Jul 2013 13:05

To anyone who is still reading, thanks for making it this far!

Part 7: Vowels: miscellaneous <a> signs
In this slightly shorter part, I will introduce two remaining signs associated with /a/. They are relatively uncommon and generally only appear in words of Sanskrit or Pali origin. I include them now because, as I said, I want to cover all the unique vowel signs before I begin to introduce combinations and modifications of familiar vowel signs. So let’s get them out of the way. Here they are:

ImageImageImageImageImage
saŋjoːk saɲɲaa, juʔkʊəl pɨntuʔ

saŋjoːk saɲɲaa
The name of this sign literally means “synthesis sign”, and appears very far to the right of the letter it modifies, almost between it and the next one.
Its a-series pronunciation is /a/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ɔə/

ImageImageImage
sak – royal family
prɑpɔən – to braid; to weave; to write poetry (related to "wife" (prɑpuən) introduced in part 2)

Final /j/ influences its pronunciation, though I am not an expert with this sign and can’t tell you for sure if I have covered every possibility:

ImageImageImage
nej – meaning; description; explanation
ceijeəʔʋɑrman – Jayavarman (name of several important kings of ancient Cambodia)

juʔkʊəl pɨntuʔ
The name means “paired dots” because of its appearance.
Its a-series pronunciation is /aʔ/
Its o-series pronunciation is /eəʔ/

ImageImageImage
kənaʔ - group; faction; clan
tʰeireəʔ - to be durable; to be permanent; to be strong

You’ll notice it’s pretty similar to long a + ɓɑntɑk, but with a glottal stop instead of a specific consonant.

Spelling irregularities
As I said before, these signs appear in words that come from Sanskrit or Pali, and Sanskrit and Pali loanwords often have irregular pronunciations, so when you see one of these signs, you can expect confusion to follow. Compare:
kənaʔ instead of expected *kɔnaʔ
tʰeireəʔ instead of expected *tʰiʔreəʔ
ceijeəʔʋɑrman instead of expected *cejaʋɔrman

Sometimes the series will be ignored, as in the following word:
Image
tʰaːnaʔ (not *tʰaːneəʔ) - grade, level, position, standing

Exercise:
Image
Leo (the lion)

Image
to be fast

Image
harmony; rhythm (the first vowel is irregular: eəʔ)

Image
university (hint: the first word ends with /l/)

Answers:
Spoiler:
səihaʔ, rɔhah leəʔjeəʔ, saːkɑl ʋitjiəlaj
If you're confused by this, don't be discouraged! This section is like the ballets and hors d'oeuvres of Khmer and is the exception rather than the rule. We'll be moving on to more sensible territory after this.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 10 Jul 2013 15:56

Part 8: Vowels: compounds with <e> signs, including the <o> vowels
Another short part to get the remaining dedicated vowel signs out of the way. There are three remaining compounds with the short e sign to be learned. They are as follows:
ImageImageImageImageImage
short e + long i, short o, long o

short e + long i
This compound vowel sign is rather simple, and has only two pronunciations.
Its a-series pronunciation is /aə/
Its o-series pronunciation is /əː/

ImageImageImage
kʰaəc – to be short
jəːŋ – we

o-signs
Skippable history: The short o sign is composed of the <e> and <a> signs. The Brahmi script, which is the parent script of scripts throughout South and Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, used this strategy of combining <e> with <a> in order to increase the number of vowel signs. This combination was assigned the vowel /o/. As a result, the majority of scripts descended from Brahmi continue to use this method for indicating some form of /o/.

short o sign
Its a-series pronunciation is /ao/
Its o-series pronunciation is /oː/

ImageImageImage
kraom – to be located below/beneath/lower
loːk – 2nd person male polite pronoun

long o sign
This one looks almost the same as the short o sign, but it has an additional line on top of the long a sign.
Its a-series pronunciation is /aw/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ɨw/

ImageImageImage
msaw – flour; powder
nɨw – to be located at

Exercise: Transliterate the following words into IPA:

Image
to go

Image
to be finished; to be completed; after that

Image
thigh

Image
to see; to understand; to recognize

Image
to be weak

Image
eyelash

Image
to go up; to ascend

Image
“You (fem) work in Tokyo.”

Answers:
Spoiler:
tɨw, haəj, pʰlɨw, kʰəːɲ kʰsaoj, roːm pʰnɛːk, laəŋ, loːk srəi tʋəː kaː nɨw toukjou
Part 9 will be the vowel aspiration sign, reəh mʊk
Last edited by clawgrip on 21 Aug 2013 09:28, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 10 Jul 2013 16:12

Here is a new vowel review chart if you're feeling confused:

Image

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by clawgrip » 12 Jul 2013 01:22

No one is posting anymore, so I fear I may have lost all my readers. Nevertheless, I will complete this guide in case anyone decides they want to take it up later on. I predict there will be a total of 15 parts, if I haven't forgotten anything. Anyway, on to Part 9.

Part 9: The aspiration sign reəh mʊk
Congratulations, you’ve learned all the vowel signs! Unfortunately, as you’re probably getting used to hearing, that’s not the whole story. This part will teach you to use a diacritic called reəh mʊk, which adds final aspiration to vowels. If you are familiar with Indic scripts such as Devanagari, you will recognize it as the Khmer version of the visarga. It looks like this:
Image
You’ll notice it looks a lot like the yuʔkʊəl pɨntuʔ (ៈ). The difference is that the reəh mʊk is made of two circles, while the yuʔkʊəl pɨntuʔ is two dots. The reəh mʊk is far more common than the yuʔkʊəl pɨntuʔ, so it’s not a big problem.

Reəh mʊk is added to a variety of vowels, so let’s just go through them one at a time.

alone
Used alone, reəh mʊk pronunciation is as follows:
Its a-series pronunciation is /ah/
Its o-series pronunciation is /eəh/

ImageImageImage
klah - some
reəh mʊk

with short i
Its a-series pronunciation is /eh/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ih/

ImageImageImage
teh – to insult; to mock
cih – to ride on; to get on/in (a vehicle)

One of my sources claims that a-series may also sometimes be pronounced /əh/, but again, I can’t find any examples.

with short u
Its a-series pronunciation is /oh/
Its o-series pronunciation is /uh/

ImageImageImage
coh – to descend; as for
lʊh – when; until; by the time that; then

with short e
Its pronunciation for both a-series and o-series is /eh/

ImageImageImage
cʰeh – to burn up
reh – to chop off; to shave off; to chisel; to carve

A notable exception is the very common word នេះ, "this" which is pronounced nih.

with long e
The a-series pronunciation is identical to short e + reəh mʊk, and using short e instead of long e is a common and valid alternate spelling for a-series, although I think some dialects still distinguish the two.
Its a-series pronunciation is /eh/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ɛh/

ImageImageImage
pʰeh – ashes; cinders
lɛh – a little; a bit

with short e + long i
This only occurs with a-series, and its pronunciation is /əh/.

Image
cɑŋkəh – chopsticks

This may alternatively be spelled with a short ɨ sign
Image
cɑŋkəh

with short o
This is equivalent to adding aspiration to the vowels derived from inherent vowels + ɓɑntɑk.
Its a-series pronunciation is /ɑh/
Its o-series pronunciation is /ʊəh/

ImageImageImage
sɑh – at all; in the least (used with in negative clauses)
cʰmʊəh – to be named; to be called

A notable exception is the very common word នោះ, "that" which is pronounced nuh.

Exercise: Transliterate the following words into IPA:
Image
house; home

Image
because; since

Image
like this; this much

Image
train

Image
to lack; to omit; to be short of

Image
to fly

Answers:
Spoiler:
pʰteəh, prʊəh, ɑɲceh, rɔteh pləːŋ, kʋah, hɑh

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by Avo » 13 Jul 2013 01:37

clawgrip wrote:No one is posting anymore, so I fear I may have lost all my readers. Nevertheless, I will complete this guide in case anyone decides they want to take it up later on.
You have one reader at least. [;)] Thank you very much for posting all this.

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Re: Learn Aksɑ̄ Khmae (Khmer Alphabet)

Post by plathhs » 13 Jul 2013 10:45

Make that two! I'm still enjoying this a lot. [:)]

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