On the Khmer term for “neutrality”

As a student of the Khmer language, I am fascinated by the nuances and subtle differences which exist in the manner formal Khmer language is used to convey ideas and concepts expressed in other languages such as English and French.  I will use this platform to sporadically post my thoughts on these issues.  Please feel free to comment or leave your observations below.


I noticed that the terms “អព្យាក្រឹត” (អ+ព្យាក្រឹត; अव्याकृत) and “អព្យាក្រឹតភាព” (अव्याकृत भाव) are usually translated as “neutral” and “neutrality” respectively, even in legal parlance. This may be problematic as the term អព្យាក្រឹត literally means “not expounded”, “not explained”, “not developed” or “not manifest”, “that which has not been put in words”.

While not exhibiting one’s views on a particular subject openly and publicly may be an attribute of a neutral entity, this term does not make for a close reference to the concept of “neutrality” itself. Conceptual clarity is essential for conveying ideas and ensuring all participants define and interpret terms in the same way. 

Now consider this sentence:

“ប្រទេសស្វ៊ីសជាប្រទេសអព្យាក្រឹតមួយ។” (‘Switzerland is a neutral country’)

Interpretation by Person A: Switzerland is non-aligned, that is, it does not support or favour any side in a war, dispute, or contest.

Interpretation by Person B: Switzerland does not explain or expound its positions with respect to the affairs of other countries.


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