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Cambodia's rise in intonation

CAMBODIA | Friday, 6 February 2009 | Views [399] | Comments [3]

The economic world seems to be plagued by rises: rising prices, rising interest rates, rising debts and, most recently, a rising rate of unemployment. However, in the Kingdom of Cambodia a new type of rise has come to plague the consumer, a rise in intonation. Over the TET holiday (Chinese New Year) I was lucky enough to voyage up to Siam Reap in order explore the famous temples of Angkor Wat. Having been a convinced skeptic since the age of fourteen, I did not expect what is commonly described as the eighth wonder of the world to live up to its reputation. However, upon arrival I soon realised that I would have to add this to my list of "places that actually look better in reality then on postcards" (note that the only other places currently on my list are Venice and San Francisco). Disappointingly, it soon came apparent was that there wasn't much exploring left to do as most of the temples are now clearly signposted and have neat pathways leading to them. However, tourists are still permitted to clamber up, on and over the vast majority of temples. Being the proud owner of all three Indiana Jones DVDs (I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the fourth), I was determined to do Harrison Ford proud and explore as best one can a place that attracts over 600,000 visitors per year. So ignoring the crowds of budding Indys and Lara Crofts, I set about scaling the highest temple I could. The tiny steps and the sweltering heat presented some difficulty but nothing someone who has completed Tomb Raider One, Two and Three couldn't overcome. Upon arrival at the top I felt a genuine sense of achievement and glanced around for some kind of artifact to plunder before progressing to the next temple. Instead I was greeted with a small Cambodian lady who turned to me and demanded, "Buy some book sir!" The demand itself didn't come as a shock - I have become accustomed to the street sellers during my time in Vietnam - however she differed from any Vietnamese trader in how she posed the question. I should point out that the level of English in Cambodia far surpasses that of its neighbour. However, along with an incredible range of vocabulary, clear pronunciation and good grasp of grammar the many Cambodians have also adopted the rising intonation of the Western world. Rising intonation used to be reserved for questions but since the arrival of MTV reality shows some native English speakers have taken to increasing the pitch of pretty much anything they say. The Cambodian traders in Angkor Wat have picked up on this and adopted it, as a result the demand sounded more like "buy some book sssiiiiiiIIIRRRR!" than the tonally flat and blunt "buy book" of a Vietnamese trader. This interruption did not fit with my Tomb Raider fantasy so I politely declined the offer, smiled and turned to walk away. From behind me I heard the same voice cry out "five dollaaaRRR", and as I continued to walk, the price started to drop but the pitch continued to rise. "Four dollaaaRRR, three dolllaaaRRR". By the time she got to two dollar I contemplating whether what came next would be audible to the human ear, but I would never find out as she abruptly stopped at two dollar. No doubt she had seen a tourist even more gullible the me, perhaps they were wearing their backpack on their front, clutching an expensive looking camera and sporting one of those baseball caps with a fold-down bit of material at the back to protect your neck from the sun. Despite my best efforts to uphold my skepticism, over the following week Cambodia proved itself to be a both beautiful and fascinating country with extremely kind and helpful people. I would recommend that anyone living in Vietnam for any length of time pay a visit to it’s neighbour. And as for the rising intonation, I must admit that it is, like many irritant in this part of the world, a Western import.



At least they're using it for emphasis / projection... Most native-British H.R.I. speakers I've met sound permanently confused, as if they need constant reassurance that what they say is indeed still understandable English! Maddening.

  Stoker Feb 8, 2009 4:18 AM



  olivia Feb 10, 2009 2:47 AM


you are sweep. silly old sweep. i have written a poem about sweep.
he climbed the temple

  panda evans Apr 4, 2009 8:55 AM

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