Vocabulaire francais-cambodgien et cambodgien francais | French-Khmer Vocabulary

by Jean Moura

A bilingual manual of conversation which is also an interesting snapshot of the first years of the French Protectorate in Cambodia.

Moura Vocabulary

Type: e-book

Publisher: V. Challamé, Paris

Edition: digital version gallica.bnf.fr

Published: 1878

Author: Jean Moura

Pages: 243

Languages : French, Khmer

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This is not your average Manual of conversation for tourists, since one can find here the Khmer phonetic translation for this kind of phrases: Demain ou après-demain, j’irai déjeuner avec le chef des rebelles et je lui demanderai de délivrer les prisonniers.” [Tomorrow or the day after, I shall go and have lunch with the leader of the insurgents, and ask him to release all prisoners.]

Compiled when the author was the representative of the French Protectorate” at the Cambodian Royal Palace, this lexicon was put together firstly to ensure that French civil and military officers address royalties and religious officials properly, according to the Khmer etiquette.

Many terms pertaining to the daily life vocabulary are compiled here, only in phonetic transliteration for the Khmer part. Thus, the book gives us a valuable snapshot on how Khmer language was used at the time, and how the French residing in Cambodia understood its many subtelties.

However, there is a big disclaimer here: according to Gregor Mitchell’s Colonial Cambodia’s Bad Frenchmen (2013), Moura never wrote that manual, but just hijacked it from Cambodian businessman, landlord in Phnom Penh and Chroy Changvar, and statesman Alexis Chhun, a collaborator of royal counsellor Col de Monteiro, a former interpreter praised by Jean Moura and Doudart de Lagree for his diligence — he had started working for the French at the young age of 12, and a kingpin of opium trade” since 1883

Alexis Chhun in 1920 (Cambodian National Library via Gregor Muller’s book)

Sub header: Contenant les regles a suivre pour la prononciation, les locutions en usage pour parler au Roi, aux bonzes, aux mandarins; la numération, la division du temps, les poids, les mesures et quelques exercices de traduction.” [Including the rules to follow for pronunciation, the expressions in use to speak to the King, to the bonzes, to the mandarins; numeration, division of time, weights, measures and some translation exercises.]

Tags: linguistics, French Protectorate, Protectorate, Khmer language, translations, vocabulary, Modern Cambodia

About the Author

Jean Moura

Jean Moura

Jean Moura (3 Apr 1827, Moissac, France — 17 May 1885) was a French Navy officer, civil administrator, Khmerologist and explorer who authored one of the first exhaustive descriptions of Cambodia and Angkor, Le Royaume du Cambodge (1883).

While lieutenant de vaisseau (Lt.) Moura was thrice the Representative of the French Protectorate’ in Cambodia (from 20 Feb.1868 to 10 March 1870, from 1st Jan. 1871 to 1st May 1876, and from 9 Nov. 1876 to 6 Jan. 1879), he developed a great interest in the geography, archaeology and history of the country.

Back in France from 1879, he donated to the Musée de Toulouse numerous pieces he had collected in Cambodia, in particular from the Neolithic site of Somrongsen (Kompong Chhnang Province, southeast of the Tonle Sap), discovered in 1875 by F. Roque, later studied by French archeologist H. Mansuy, and which it had visited in 1876.

In April 2022, Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts HE Phoeurng Sackona ភឿង សកុណា published her translation into Khmer of Moura’s diary, De Phnom-Penh à Pursat en compagnie du Roi de Cambodge et de sa cour, relating a journey across Cambodian provinces and around the Tonle Sap Lake on elephants hosted by King Norodom Ier, in which Moura had been the only foreigner invited.

According to Gregor Muller’s Colonial Cambodia’s Bad Frenchmen: The Rise of French Rule and the life of Thomas Caraman 1840 – 1887 (Routledge, 2013; French translation by Bénédicte de Cheyron Monroe, Le Cambodge Colonial et ses mauvais Francais”, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2015. ISBN 0415355621), Jean Moura fathered at least one child with a Cambodian woman, Neang Teat, Moura Dam, who came to work as interpetrer and cartographer in Cambodia, but never claimed fatherhood.

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A portrait displayed during the conference L’aventure de l’officier de marine moissagais Jean Moura au pays de la grande civilisation Khmer” by René Pautal, Moissac, France, Oct. 2010 (Photo La Depeche du Midi)