REPORT ON THE CURRENT STATUS OF
UNITED NATIONS ROMANIZATION SYSTEMS FOR GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES
Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 2.2, January 2003
The United Nations recommended system was approved in 1972 (resolution II/10), based on the system used by the BGN/PCGN (1972), this being a modified version of the Service Géographique Khmère (SGK) 1959 system. The table and notes on its usage were published in volume II of the conference report (Second United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. London, 10-31 May 1972. Vol. II. Technical papers. United Nations. New York 1974, pp. 163-164.).
The system is used in many international cartographic products. In 1994-1995 the Gazetteer of Cambodia was produced using this system with some proposed modifications. However, since 1995 the Geography Department of the Ministry of Land Management and Urban Planning of Cambodia has been developing a new romanization system which was subsequently used in the second edition of the Gazetteer of Cambodia in 1996. This provisional system which does not contain any diacritical marks was further modified in 1997.
Khmer uses an alphasyllabic script whereby each character represents a syllable rather than one sound. Vowels and diphthongs are marked in two ways: as independent characters (used syllable-initially) and in an abbreviated form, to denote vowels after consonants. The romanization system is complicated by many additional rules. In Khmer writing word division is not ordinarily indicated and Khmer diacritical marks are often omitted. The romanization is generally not reversible to its original script form.
I. Consonant characters
II. Subscript consonant characters (ក stands for any consonant character, see also note 3)
Character numbers correspond to those in Table I.
III. Independent vowel characters
IV. Vocalic nuclei (ក stands for any consonant character)
Where variants in romanization separated by a dash are given the first is to be used in the â-series and the second in the ô-series.
V. Shortened syllables and vocalic nuclei with anuswara or visarga
Where variants in romanization separated by a dash are given the one before the dash is to be used in the â-series and the one(s) after the dash in the ô-series. (ក stands for any consonant character.)
A "foot" determines the series of the following vocalic nucleus unless it is a nasal (ង ng, ញ nh, ណ n, ន n, ម m) or យ y, រ r, ល l, វ v, ស s. In that case, the base consonant determines the vocalic series: ខ្ពង khpông, ល្អ l’â, ថ្ម thmâ, ស្វាយ svay. Syllable-final យ and ង sometimes appear as "feet": ស្វាយ or ស្វា្យ svay, ទាំង or ទាំ្ង teăng. This practice appears to be optional and such irregular Khmer spellings are not reflected as such in romanization.
The provisional romanization system by the Geography Department (Geographical Names of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Submitted by Cambodia. Eighth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Berlin, 27 August – 5 September 2002. Document E/CONF.94/ INF.30) of the Ministry of Land Management and Urban Planning of Cambodia (1995, modified 1997) renders the consonants in the same way as described above but the presentation of vowels is somewhat different. As a rule, diacritical signs used in the UN system are omitted but the following equivalents are different. (Numbers refer to the tables and characters in the UN system. Some of the provided romanizations have no explicit counterparts in the UN system.)
Where variants in romanization separated by a dash are given the one before the dash is to be used in the â-series and the one(s) after the dash in the ô-series. Uncertain romanization equivalents are indicated by a question mark.
Before the last modification in 1997 to the system was made, the vowel a / ă in
combinations ា, ា់ and ័• (see UN system, Table IV, line 1, Table V, lines 2 and 3) was
romanized as aa, and the vowel é in the combination េ (Table IV, line 12) was
romanized as ee.