Chamic languages

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Aceh-Chamic language family. For the group of Cham dialects, see Cham languages.
Indonesia (Aceh), Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China (Hainan Island), various countries with recent immigrants
Linguistic classification: Austronesian
  • Acehnese
  • Coastal
  • Highlands
ISO 639-2 / 5: cmc
Glottolog: cham1327[1]

The Chamic languages, also known as Aceh–Chamic and Achinese–Chamic, are a group of ten languages spoken in Aceh (Sumatra, Indonesia) and in parts of Cambodia, Vietnam, Hainan, classified as Malayo-Sumbawan languages in the Austronesian language family.

After Acehnese, with 3.5 million, Jarai and Cham are the most widely spoken Chamic languages, with about 230,000 and 280,000 speakers respectively, in both Cambodia and Vietnam. Tsat is one of the least spoken with only 3,000 speakers.

Due to extensive borrowing resulting from long-term contact, Chamic and Bahnaric languages have many vocabulary items in common (Thurgood 1999, Sidwell 2009).


Graham Thurgood (1999:36) gives the following classification for the Chamic languages.[2] Individual languages are marked by italics.

The Proto-Chamic numerals from 7 to 9 are shared with those of the Malayan languages, providing partial evidence for a Malayo-Chamic subgrouping (Thurgood 1999:37).


The Proto-Chamic reconstructed below is from Graham Thurgood's 1999 publication From Ancient Cham to Modern Dialects.[2]


The following table of Proto-Chamic presyllabic consonants are from Thurgood (1999:68). There are a total of 13-14 presyllabic consonants depending on whether or not ɲ is counted. Non-presyllabic consonants include *ʔ, *ɓ, *ɗ, *ŋ, *y, *w. Aspirated consonants are also reconstructable for Proto-Chamic.

Proto-Chamic Presyllabic Consonants[2]
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive Voiceless p t c k
Voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Nasal m ɲ[3]
Lateral l
Tap or trill r
Fricative s h

The following consonant clusters are reconstructed for Proto-Chamic (Thurgood 1999:93).

  1. *pl-
  2. *bl-
  3. *kl-
  4. *gl-
  5. *pr-
  6. *tr-
  7. *kr-
  8. *br-
  9. *dr-


There are 4 vowels (*-a, *-i, *-u, and *-e, or alternatively *-ə) and 3 diphthongs (*-ay, *-uy, *-aw).[2]

Proto-Chamic Vowels
Height Front Central Back
Close i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /e/ ([ə /ə/])
Open a /a/


Reconstructed Proto-Chamic morphological components are:[2]

  • *tə-: the "inadvertent" prefix
  • *mə-: common verb prefix
  • *pə-: causative prefix
  • *bɛʔ-: negative imperative prefix (borrowed from Mon–Khmer languages)
  • *-əm-: nominalizing infix
  • *-ən-: instrumental infix (borrowed from Mon–Khmer languages)


Proto-Chamic has the following personal pronouns (Thurgood 1999:247-248):


  • *kəu – I (familiar)
  • *hulun – I (polite); slave
  • *dahlaʔ – I (polite)
  • *hã – you; thou
  • *ñu – he, she; they


  • *kaməi – we (exclusive)
  • *ta – we (inclusive)
  • *drəi – we (inclusive); reflexive
  • *gəp – other; group (borrowed from Mon–Khmer languages)


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chamic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Thurgood, Graham (1999). From Ancient Cham to Modern Dialects: Two Thousand Years of Language Contact and Change: With an Appendix of Chamic Reconstructions and Loanwords. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications, No. 28, pp. i, iii-vii, ix-xiii, xv-xvii, 1-259, 261-275, 277-397, 399-407.
  3. ^ Reflexes of ɲ are rare in modern Chamic languages.