Spelling and Pronunciation
in Southeast Asia


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)