The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition

Preface superimposed on blue cover of 1878 edition

Khmer has a written history traceable to the 7th century. It is the language of the great culture that built the sacred capital of Angkor center of a powerful kingdom between the 9th and 15th centuries. Linguists find many similarities between structures of Khmer and of Thai, two unrelated languages that coexisted for many centuries, exchanging literary and cultural influences.

Aymonier’s Dictionnaire khmer-français, published in 1878, which expanded upon his earlier (1874), shorter, Vocabulaire cambodian-français, is probably the first dictionary of Khmer and a Western language with the Khmer entries (hand)written in Khmer script. The dictionary is also notable today for serving as a snapshot of Khmer orthography and vocabulary of the 19th century, as many of the entries in the dictionary are spelled very differently today, and in some cases, only in current use by speakers of Northern Khmer, which is largely spoken by the Khmer ethnic minority in Thailand.

The Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies (SSEAS) at UC Berkeley offers both undergraduate and graduate instruction and research in the languages and civilizations of South and Southeast Asia from the most ancient period to the present. Instruction includes intensive training in several of the major languages of the area including Bengali, Burmese, Hindi, Khmer, Indonesian (Malay), Pali, Prakrit, Punjabi, Sanskrit (including Buddhist Sanskrit), Filipino (Tagalog), Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu, and Vietnamese, and specialized training in the areas of literature, philosophy and religion, and general cross-disciplinary studies of the civilizations of South and Southeast Asia. Outside of SSEAS where beginning through advanced level courses are offered in Khmer, related courses are taught and dissertations produced across campus in Art History, Comparative Literature, Folklore, History, Linguistics and Political Science (re)examining the rich history and culture of the Cambodia, or Kampuchea.

Contribution by Frank Smith, Lecturer
Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies

Sources consulted:

Dictionnaire khmêr-français
Title in English: French-Khmer Dictionary
Author: Aymonier, E. (Etienne), 1844- compiler.
Imprint: Saigon : [s.n.], 1878.
Edition: 1st edition
Language: Khmer
Language Family: Austroasiatic, Mon-Khmer
Source: HathiTrust Digital Library (Cornell University)


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The Languages of Berkeley is a dynamic online sequential exhibition celebrating the diversity of languages that have advanced research, teaching and learning at the University of California, Berkeley. It is made possible with support from the UC Berkeley Library and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Language Center (BLC).

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