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September 24

Happy (US) National

Punctuation Day!




St. Augustine of Hippo:

Rule for Removing Ambiguity

by Attending to Punctuation


This excerpt from Book III is taken from his larger work ON CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, written in Latin.

It consists of 4 books; the first 3 of these books were published in 397 A.D. and the fourth added in 426.




"...a compend of exegetical theology to guide the reader in the understanding and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures..."





* * *




We, Cambodians, need to move from baby food to solid food, in our Khmer language development, which will allow for more meaty content. More and proper punctuation is the PRINCIPLE OF FIRST THINGS, the NECESSARY PRE-CONDITION to BASIC education, ACCESS to justice, democracy, governance, rule of law, business...

The use of commas will automatically allow for more spacing which allows for greater clarity!

The ditty below is cute, but it's for 1st graders not the larger adult population. It's cute and fine if we want to freeze the Khmer alphabets as a relic of antiquity and artwork (printed on T-shirts for Cambodian diasporas and tourists). But if we are at all serious and concern about the development of IDEAS and KHMER CULTURE and LEARNING, then there is no other way around the use of more and proper punctuation.

[Rhymes to remember your ABCs (in Khmer)]




. . .



Examples of UN-CLARITY and MANGLED

language of Khmer writing

(click to read examples)


Here are two examples of UN-CLARITY and MANGLED language that impede reading in the Khmer language.

1. DIRECT KHMER WRITING (not a translation): Typical news article with typical run-on sentences, and this one example comes from one of the best Khmer news services, RFA. (My point is not to pick on RFA; I am using this example to underline the fact that if the best of the news services is typically printing these run-on sentences, how much more the wider society!)

2. EXCELLENT TRANSLATION: Here's one chapter from the book of Joshua (one of 66 books of the Christian Bible) which has been meticulously, excellently translated. Is it readable? What is the ease of reading this chapter?

If we are at all concerned about the state of education, about the state of Cambodian culture, we cannot be indifferent to this most urgent, most serious matter.

- Theary C. Seng, Phnom Penh, 5 June 2014

. . .




"Cognitive Miser" Theory:

We mistake our familiarity with these things for the belief that we have a detailed understanding of how they work.



. . .


ឲ្យ v. អោយ

I have seen immense progress over the past few years since I've raised the issue of the prevailing incorrect spelling of ឲ្យ as អោយ.  However, the matter is not settled as the continuing incorrect spelling is still made.


In all instances of my editing and punctuating of the Khmer Bible (59 of the 66 books), I have changed to the correct spelling of ឲ្យ (from អោយ, which is incorrect).


Samdech Sangh (Venerable) Chuon Nath Dictionary (1967) and another dictionary before 1977 have ឲ្យ. Dictionaries of 2004, 2007 have ឱ្យ.

ឱ្យ​ is an accepted form of ឲ្យ. However, the introduction page of Samdech Sangh Chuon Nath dictionary (1967-1968) edition - note No. ខ៣, he also indicated that while this form is correct, we should not use: ឱយ or អោយ.

Writing អោយ (which is INCORRECT) is akin to texting in English luv . It is common practice to write informally text or email messages "I luv you" but it doesn't make "luv" the correct spelling of "love". The principle also applies to writing Khmer properly.


សូម v. សុំ



In general you use

សុំ (a verb)


for asking, begging.

In this case, សុំ as a verb is

followed by a noun/object.


You use

សូម as part of a verb phrase,


still expressing a need, preceding the main action

(that is to say,

followed by the action verb),

often used to make the phrase more polite.


I encounter the incorrect or inconsistent use of these words

សូម and សុំ

all the time, including all the popular main Khmer print media as well as in the books of the Bible, mainly the Gospel of John.





* * *





Just because we have always done it that way

Doesn't mean its not incredibly stupid.




. . .





is the Key to Development


Commentary by Theary C. Seng

20 Feb. 2014




. . .

The Country that Stopped Reading



Education through Imagination:


A Closed Mind is a Beautiful Thing to Lose

Theary C. Seng, June 2007

Read. Read. Read.

A critical component of the development of the imagination is reading. We Khmers need to read, read, read and read some more. When we read, we prepare ourselves for any and all opportunities which otherwise would pass us by. The Chinese have it right it defining 'success' by combining the character for preparation (internal individually determined) with the character for opportunity (externally determined).

The majority of Khmer live in a harsh reality of abject poverty, crimes and abuse. More than ever we need to keep in mind that reality can be 'beaten with enough imagination'. Imagination, then, is the gateway to wisdom and change, and ultimately to personal and social development.

. . .


Losing our mother tongue

Opinion by Soprach Tong

The Phnom Penh Post, Feb. 9, 2013

Some young people seemingly pretend to be unable to speak their mother tongue...

But when writing in Khmer, which is their native tongue, no one seems to care about accuracy. Even if the dictionary of Patriarch Chuon Nat is installed on their computer, they never bother to open it...

"Khmer citizens must know the national language clearly, in both oral and written form, to ensure it survives."



. . .


Rare reading materials in the Khmer language that have been edited for clarity and easy comprehension!

With the scarcity of available reading materials in the Khmer language in electronic form where I can edit to raise my larger point of the NEED FOR USE OF PUNCTUATIONS, I am glad I can illustrate using the Khmer Bible.


If you ONLY know English, and this is how you have been habituated to read English, how far would you go in your education?


For the KHMER reader, click here and read this chapter from the book of JOSHUA.

(The verse numbers are acting as a punctuation, but without them, the chaos would be UTTER CHAOS.)

For the ENGLISH reader, click here and read this chapter, but imagine there are no proper nouns (no capitalized words) and no punctuations except for the full stop.

The vocabulary (translation) is very good -- as it done by a committee with checks and rechecks, unlike most of the other translations being produced in the whole of society. But without commas and other punctuation, is the Khmer chapter clear and understandable?


This is how Cambodians read the Cambodian language. For Cambodians with means or an opportunity to rely on another language, after they're stuck with the Cambodian language (which is very early on), they rely on their 2nd language for knowledge.


But for the MAJORITY of Cambodians who do not know a 2nd language, they have to fight the printed page and mangled language (of misspelling, of "creative" texting-style punctuation, or just run-on phrases) to get even a scant piece of knowledge.


. . .


Politics and the English Language

Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief
that language is a natural growth
and not an instrument which we shape
for our own purposes.

- George Orwell


. . .




Part I


(edited version published in The Phnom Penh Post, 16 Aug. 2011)


Part II


The Written Khmer: The Problem

(edited version published in The Phnom Penh Post, 17 August 2012)





Venerable Chuon Nath's Dictionary

and other Authority

(the learned monk of the 20th century is the strongest authority on all things educated, in Khmer)

Venerable Chuon Nath with King Norodom Sihanouk



Language and National Identity

by Dr. Stephen Heder

(a chapter on Cambodia in a book published by Oxford University Press)


. . .


សេចក្តីប្រកាស ជាសកល ស្តីអំពី សិទ្ធិមនុស្ស

Universal Declaration of Human Rights


. . .

The Khmer Bible

Version with Proper Punctuations/Formatting

Theary Seng Version






Must be free of the burdens

of having to fight the printed page

and mangled language.



Is the beginning of effective DIALOGUE, of quality EDUCATION, of RECONCILIATION, of Cambodian FLOURISHING (PEACE with JUSTICE, or SHALOM).


* * *

Theary Seng Commentary, Phnom Penh Post, 16 Aug. 2011
Commentary by Ms. Theary C. Seng, The Phnom Penh Post, 16 Aug. 2011

Commentary by Ms. Theary C. Seng, The Phnom Penh Post, 17 Aug. 2012








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