Causal conjunction tbət in Cambodian: Notes on the history and functional properties

2021. №1, 84-103

Sergei Yu. Dmitrenko
Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences,
St. Petersburg, Russia;


The paper describes the conjunction tbət, a causal marker in Cambodian. Some aspects of its history and its functioning in Middle and Modern Cambodian are considered. Although there is no consensus as to the origins of this conjunction, its genetic links to the Sanskrit (or Pali) word pada ‘footstep, trace, vestige, pretext’ are indisputable. Its fi rst appearance in texts goes back to Middle Cambodian. In 17th–18th century texts, it occurs as a major causal marker functioning as either a preposition or conjunction. The paper analyzes its use during that period based on 17th century epigraphic inscriptions and on a classical didactic poem, Cbap Preah Riəcsɒmphiə. Further, I analyze numerous occurrences of tbət in the picaresque tale Rɯəŋ Thunɲcəj, composed in an archaic style similar to Middle Cambodian. In modern written Cambodian, tbət only occurs as a causal conjunction. Causal clauses introduced by tbət invariably follow the main clause, while those with other causal markers can either precede or follow the main clause. Tbət is mostly found in journalistic or scientifi c texts. Though the conjunction sometimes lends certain “archaic” fl avor to the texts it appears in, its meaning is often fairly neutral and only serves to mark an offi cial, bookish style of the writing. As a typological rarity, Modern Cambodian sometimes uses tbət to mark concession, with the concessive tbət-clauses preceding the main clause.

For citation:

Dmitrenko S. Yu. Causal conjunction tbət in Cambodian: Notes on the history and functional properties. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2021, 1: 84–103.


The research was supported by Russian Science Foundation, project No. 18-18-00472.