Northern Khmer (พาซาคแมรซุริน)

Northern Khmer is a Khmer language spoken in southeastern Thailand, mainly in the provinces of Surin and Sisaket. In 2006 there were about 1.4 million speakers of Northern Khmer, which is also known as Surin Khmer, Khmer Lue, Thailand Khmer and Upper Khmer.

Speakers of Northern Khmer are said to understand other varities of Khmer more or less, but speakers of standard Khmer find Northern Khmer more difficult to follow, unless they have been exposed to it. Northern Khmer has different pronunciation, and about 80-85% of the vocabulary is cognate with standard Khmer. As a result, some linguists classify it as a separate language.

The Northern Khmer speakers are isolated from other Khmer speakers by the Dongrek Mountains, and live in an area that has been ruled, at different times, by the Lao Kingdom of Champasak, and the Kingdom of Siam. There are speakers of Lao, Thai, Kuy and other Mon-Khmer languages in the area, multilingualism is common, and the languages influence one another.

Northern Khmer is used in the media, religious services and in businesses. It is used more in towns than in cities, where Thai is more common. Northern Khmer is taught in homes and temples.

Northern Khmer is written with the Thai script in Thailand, and with the Khmer script in Cambodia. However, only about 1,000 people can read it, and 100 can write it. A Northern Khmer translation of the Bible was published in 2003.

Northern Khmer alphabet

Northern Khmer alphabet

Download an alphabet chart for Northern Khmer (Excel)

Details of the Northern Khmer alphabet provided by Wolfram Siegel

Sample video


Information about Northern Khmer

Khmeric languages

Khmer, Northern Khmer

Languages written with the Thai script

Bisu, Isan, Kuy, Northern Khmer, Northern Pwo, Nyah Kur, Pāli, Sanskrit, Thai, Thai Song, Urak Lawoi’

Page last modified: 10.06.24


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