​Paris Peace Agreements 1991

Monday, April 11, 2016

One Woman’s Fight to Bring Commas to Khmer

One Woman’s Fight to Bring Commas to Khmer

 The Cambodia Daily | 11 April 2016
If Theary Seng had her way, hundreds of years of writing the Khmer language would be turned on its head, with spaces introduced between words and the Western comma utilized liberally for intelligibility.
A refugee who fled the civil war to the U.S. as a child in 1979 and returned in 1995, Ms. Seng has since become the sole proselytizer for an apocalyptic vision of written Khmer, which she depicts as a long-neglected form often unable to communicate complex ideas lucidly.

Theary Seng (Roland Neveu)
Theary Seng (Roland Neveu)

Pointing to the clarity that the comma can bring to English (such as, she notes, the important distinction between the phrases “Let’s eat, grandma” and “Let’s eat grandma”), Ms. Seng says its utility became apparent after she returned to the country having forgotten much of her native language.
“The issue arose for me principally in two ways: my encounter with re-learning Khmer as an adult, [and] my encounter with the struggles of educated Cambodians to articulate in Khmer,” Ms. Seng said in an email on Sunday.


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