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With the fall of the Khmer Empire, Old Khmer was no longer the dominant language of a powerful centralized state and began to absorb influences from Thai, Lao and, to a lesser extent, Vietnamese and Cham.

Heirs to the Cambodian throne were educated and raised in foreign capitals as hostages.

Old Khmer and the changes of Middle Khmer are recorded by an extensive epigraphy which has allowed Middle Khmer to be reconstructed and studied.

During the Middle Khmer period, the language lost the voiced stops of Old Khmer which resulted in comprehensive compensatory changes to the vowel system.

Khmer has been written in an Indic-based script since the 6th–7th century.It is within this context, the collapse of the Khmer Empire, that Old Khmer began to quickly evolve into Middle Khmer.All modern varieties of Khmer descend directly from the "break-up of speech communities" that occurred during the Middle Khmer period.Vowels following the originally voiceless stops were lowered.In most cases the lowering resulted in a process of diphthongization which began with on-glides and, as the shift progressed, the on-glide became the focus of a new vowel nucleus.

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