Spelling and Pronunciation


There are so many different spoken and written languages in Southeast Asia that few general rules can be given. It's always best to imitate an educated native-language speaker. I've given a few hints in the text for some of the less-obvious words. The following miscellaneous notes may also be helpful.

1. The following rules have wide currency in the Khmer heartland (Cambodia and parts of Thailand and Laos):

  1. a as in father (if long, or accented)
  2. a as in hut (if short, or unaccented)
  3. ay as in eye
  4. h is not pronounced after most consonants
  5. w is pronounced like English "v"

2. Examples:

  1. "Angkor Wat" (Khmer) is pronounced "AHNG-ker VAHT" (rules 1,5)
  2. "krap" (Thai, meaning "please") is pronounced "CROP" (rule 1)
  3. "Thai" is pronounced "TIE" (rule 4)
  4. "Baray" (Khmer) is pronounced "buh-RYE" (rules 2,3)

3. Religious terms in Pali are sometimes descended from a related Sanskrit word. In these cases, a Sanskrit "r" is replaced by a doubled consonant, especially in Burma. Examples:

  1. dharma -> dhamma (doctrine)
  2. sutra -> sutta (sermon)
  3. chakra -> cakka (wheel)