First Khmer Dictionary Published in Six Decades

For the first time in 67 years, an official Khmer dictionary has been published.

The “Spelling Dictionary of the Cambodian Language,” publish­ed last week by the Institute of Na­tional Languages, is the first official update on the “Cambodian Diction­ary” produced under the direction of Abbot Chhuon Nath of the Bud­dhist Institute in 1938, officials said.

Meach Pon, a language expert with the Buddhist Institute who worked on the new book, said it contains 41,000 words, some 20,000 more words than Chhuon Nath’s Khmer-to-Khmer opus.

“If we had had enough budget to collect more usage data, it could probably have had 60,000 words,” he said. “We did not have the budget to add definitions or ex­amples yet.”

Meach Pon said the new dictionary does not attempt to include slang and mainly adds new economic, scientific and legal terms that were not devised as of 1938.

San Peou, permanent secretary-general for the Institute of Na­tional Languages at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the book was printed with the help of the NGO International Institute of Cambodia, which will sell the book for $7.

Work on the dictionary started in 1998, he said, and a team of 20 people discussed each word in meticulous detail.

Sorn Samnang of the Royal Acad­emy said Chhuon Nath’s diction­ary was used as the foundation for the dictionary, and only new words were added because the 1938 work is still definitive.

The institute decided to issue the dictionary before a version that includes word definitions was rea­dy because of pressing need.

“We want to stop users from per­petuating word anarchy in ad­vertising, karaoke videos and on posters,” San Peou said.

San Peou urged readers of the dictionary to send suggestions to the academy to assist in the pro­cess of developing the dictionary.

“Critique from readers is welcome,” he said, adding that new words in the dictionary came mainly from government ministries.


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