Des mots khmers désignant les 'documents écrits' | Khmer Terminology for Written Documents

by Saveros Pou

From stone inscriptions to actual books on paper, the terminology of written words and their support


Publication: MON-KHMER STUDIES 20: 11-17

Published: 1992

Author: Saveros Pou

Pages: 7

Language : French

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Starting from the charik thma or silacharik (សិលាចារឹក in modern Khmer), the author, a respected Khmerologist, epigraphist and linguist, leads us in a journey through the universe of Khmer written words.

Rikta (a sanskrit word meaning 'blank, virgin') were the metal sheets onto which royal edicts were engraved. Phnat were folded paper strips, ancestors of modern books.

A specialist in 'middle-Khmer' (Saveros Pou's last published work after her passing in 2020 was a Dictionary of Middle Khmer, the transitional linguistic form between Old and Modern Khmer)(1), the author shows how Angkorian terms evolved with the society: kambi, for instance, originally referring to royal communications, came to represent 'serious literature', in particular canonical and sacred texts in the Buddhist Theravada tradition.

(1) Gregory Mikaelian reviewed this Dictionary here.

Tags: epigraphy, texts, linguistics, calligraphy

About the Author


Saveros Pou

Saveros Pou (Saveros Lewitz in the 1960s-1970s) ពៅ សាវរស (1929, Phnom Penh- 25 May 2020, France) was a French linguist of Cambodian origin. A retired research director of the CNRS in Paris, a specialist of the Khmer language and civilization, she carried out extensive work of Khmer epigraphy, starting as a young researcher with her teachers George Cœdès and Jean Filliozat.

Born in a high-society and learned family -- her uncle, Nhieuk Nou (1900-1982), was 'okhnya mahamantri', Royal Palace secretary, and her grandfather, Ker Nou (1864-1958), a judge and 'pandit' (sage) --, Saveros Pou went to the Sutharot Girls School and Lycée Sisowath before moving to France for higher education, to become a leading researcher in linguistics and social history of Cambodia, as well as a respected teacher for several generations. Residing in England in the 1970s and 1980s, she furthered her research in several US universities, in particular in Hawaii.

Her work in the field of etymology, specifically applied to old Khmer (from 6th to 14th centuries) was seminal, while her varied skills enabled her to tackle areas such as the very rich processes of derivation in Khmer, religion, codes of conduct, zoology and botany, culinary art, etc. This encyclopedic approach is reflected in her Dictionnaire vieux khmer-français-anglais.

She is the author of more than 150 books and articles, published in several orientalist journals such as the Journal Asiatique and the Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient. Saveros Pou's last book published before her death was Un dictionnaire du khmer-moyen (Phnom Penh, Buddhist Institue, Sāstrā Publishing House, 2017).


Saveros Pou in 1970 (photo Reyum/Mikaelian)