The Study of the Sound System of a Language
Khmer, unlike other languages spoken by its closest
neighbors (Vietnamese, Laotian. Thai and Chinese) is non-tonal.
Nonetheless, it has a rich phonological system. Khmer is uninflected,
but it has a rich system of affixes, including infixes, for
derivation (U.S. Library of
Phonemes (the Smallest
Unit of Sound in Language)
Phonemes are contrasted speech sounds which make a difference
in meaning” (Downing and Leong, 1982, p. 55). In Khmer, there
are twenty-seven short and long vowel phonemes, depending
on dialect (with Northern Khmer having as many as thirty).
There are seventeen to twenty-one consonant phonemes in the
inventory (UCLA Language Materials Project, n.d.).
Syllables (Units of
Language Smaller than a Word, but Larger than a Phoneme)
When someone knows a language they know words, that is, sound
units or “syllables” that are related to specific meanings.
(Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams, 2003).
Most native words are monosyllabic or consist of a semi-syllable
(unstressed with a reduced vowel) followed by a single syllable.
There are many polysyllabic words, mainly of a literate character,
which have been borrowed from Sanskrit and Pali. Khmer has
also borrowed from Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and French (UCLA
Language Materials Project, n.d.)
The language is nontonal; there is stress, and it tends to
fall on the final syllable (UCLA Language
Materials Project website, n.d.). Student may respond
or read in English in a monotone voice.
Grammar (The Study of
Language Patterns and the Relationship of Words in a Sentence)
Generally speaking, Khmer has nouns (including pronouns as
a special subcategory), verbs (including stative 
verbs or adjectives), adverbs, and various kinds of words
called particles  (including verbal auxiliaries,
prepositions, conjunctions, final particles, and interjections).
Many Khmer words change, chameleon-like, from one part of
speech to another, depending on the context. The normal word
order is subject-verb-object. Adjectival modifiers follow
the nouns they modify, but numerals often come before
the noun unless a numerical classifier is used and then both
numeral and classifier follow. (Numeral classifiers do not
play as important a role in Khmer as they do in Thai) (U.S. Library of
Grammatical relations are signaled by word order with the
help of various particles . Genitive constructions
are formed by juxtaposing the noun possessed followed by the
Khmer is a language that is devoid of inflection in either
nouns or verbs; this type of language is sometimes referred
to as isolating. For nouns, number is inferred from context
although there are modifiers—such as words equivalent to "some,"
"all," and the numeral "two" in English--which
can be used to indicate plural. There are no articles marking
a definite/indefinite distinction. Gender is unmarked but
distinctions can be made by using kinds of modifiers that
have inherent referential gender, such as words for "son,"
"daughter," "male," and "female."
Verbs are unmarked for tense, aspect, mood, and other categories.
These, if marked at all, are indicated by auxiliaries, which
can precede or follow the verb. The system of personal pronouns
is fairly rich; it is sensitive to the social standing of
interlocutors, such as perceived status, age, and level of
intimacy. (UCLA Language
Materials Project website, n.d.)
 “Stative: Belonging to or designating
a class of verbs that express a state or condition”
(The American heritage dictionary, 2000).
 “Particle: 1) An uninflected item
that has grammatical function but does not clearly belong
to one of the major parts of speech, such as up in He looked
up the word or to in English infinitives. 2) In some systems
of grammatical analysis, any of various short function words,
including articles, prepositions, and conjunctions”
(The American Heritage Dictionary, 2000).