Which Language Has the Largest Alphabet?

Letters in the Khmer alphabet.
Letters in the Khmer alphabet.

The alphabet is the standard set of symbols used to write a language based on a set of principles that guide a particular language. There are many alphabets in use in today's world with the most widely used being the Latin alphabet which forms the foundation for a majority of written languages in the world. These various forms of alphabets are different from each other in regards to length and the phonetic sound. When it comes to the length, however, the alphabet that holds the record for having the largest alphabet is the Khmer.

Khmer Alphabet

The Khmer alphabet is the script employed to write up the Khmer language which is the certified dialect of Cambodia. The alphabet is a derivative of the Pallava Script that was created in the Southern region of India during the Pallava Dynasty in the 6th century. The Khmer alphabet has 74 letters, and it is written from the left side to the right. Words in a sentence are written together without any space between them.


The Khmer alphabet contains 35 consonants out of which 33 are used in the modern version of Khmer dialect. Each Khmer consonant has an inherent vowel which means a sound that is used with each unmarked consonant symbol. Each consonant, in turn, has a unique subscript form that is written below other consonants to create consonant clusters which are consonants that are pronounced consecutively in a word that has no vowel sound between them.


There are two types of vowels in the Khmer alphabet, and dependent vowels and independent vowels. Dependent vowels cannot be written alone, and they have to be accompanied by a consonant for them to convey a meaning. These vowels are only pronounced after the consonant. Independent vowels, on the other hand, can stand on their own and still be able to convey meaning without having to be involved with a consonant.


The numeral representation in the Khmer alphabet is similar to the other modern alphabets like the ones used in Southeast Asia. Their numerals number from 1 to 9 and are denoted by special symbols unique to the Khmer language. Period point used in Western-style numerals separate larger numbers. The comma is used for decimal points.


There are four styles of writing in the Khmer alphabet. The first one is Aksar Chrieng which use oblique letters, and most of the handwritten forms of the Khmer language use this style. The second writing style is Aksar Chhor which refers to the upright way of writing. Most Khmer typefaces employ this style of writing to allow for other changes like italicizing to be applied by word processing software. The third style is Aksar Kham which uses antique characteristics of the Khmer letters and sharper serif fonts. This style is widely used in the making of engravings. The last style of writing is Aksar Mul which is the calligraphic version of the Khmer alphabet. It is commonly used for writing headings in documents, banknotes, signage, books, and banners as well highlighting important names


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