Denis Paillard

Université Paris Diderot, Paris




ʔaɔj as causative verb in Khmer


The link between some of the uses of ʔaɔj (‘give’) and the expression of causation are well established in the literature (Gorgoniev1966, Bisang 1992):


(1)        peːl       β̞iɜ        mɔːk     piː        saːlaː    β̞eɲ      ʔaɔj      β̞iɜ        ɲam     baːj       mʊn     tɘɨ!

            time     he        come    from     school  part.     ʔaɔj      he        eat       rice      before   go

            “When  he comes back from the school, feed him first thing!”


ʔaɔj can also serve to express a complex causative structure involving two events, as in:


(2)        kɔm                  bɑŋkʰɑm          ʔaɔj      kʰɲɔm   deːɲ      β̞iɜ        ceːɲ !

            neg.mod.          make                ʔaɔj      I           lay off  him      go out

            “Don’t make me lay him off!”


However, there are many cases where ʔaɔj is less obviously causative, as illustrated by the following examples taken from a long list:


(3)        kʰɲɔm   baɘk                 laːn                  ʔaɔj      niɜjuɜ? juːneskoː

            I           drive                vehicle ʔaɔj      director            Unesco

            “I am a chauffeur for the Director-General of UNESCO!”


(4)        baɜ       β̞iɜ        mɔːk     jɨːt        kɔm                  tʰaː       ʔaɔj      β̞iɜ

            if          he        come    late      neg.mod.          say       ʔaɔj      he

            “If he comes in late, don’t reprimand him!”


It is far from easy to derive the different uses and semantic values of ʔaɔj from its lexical meaning of “give”. We propose to describe ʔaɔj as a «meta-predicate» whose function is to connect two events whereby the first subevent e1 (X V1 ) is interpreted as triggering the second subevent e2 (Y V2 Z), which we note as: X V1 =>  Y V2 Z.

Seen from this angle, the different uses of ʔaɔj  are described as implementing different but constrained modes of realization of the arguments X, Y and Z as well as of V1 and V2. In most cases, only some of those elements are present in the clause.



Bisang Walter (1992). Das Verb im Chinesischem, Hmong, Vietnamesischen, Thai und Khmer. Tübingen : Gunter Narr Verlag.

Gorgonief  Iouri (1966) Grammatika khmerskogo jazyka, Moskva.