Jarai language

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Native to Vietnam, Cambodia
Region Central Highlands
Native speakers
260,000 (2007–2008)[1]
Vietnam: modified Vietnamese alphabet; Cambodia: none
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3 jra
Glottolog jara1266[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Jarai language is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by the Jarai people of Vietnam and Cambodia. The speakers of Jarai number approximately 332,557. They are the largest of the upland ethnic groups of Vietnam's Central Highlands known as Degar or Montagnards.

The language is in the Chamic subgroup of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, and is thus related to the Cham language of central Vietnam.

A number of Jarai also live in the United States, having resettled there following the Vietnam War.


Dao (1998)[3] lists the following subgroups of Jarai and their respective locations.

  • Jarai Pleiku: in the Pleiku area
  • Jarai Cheoreo: in AJunPa (Phú Bổn)
  • Jarai ARáp: in northwestern Pleiku, southwestern Kon Tum
  • Jarai H’dRung: in northeastern Pleiku, southeastern Kon Tum
  • Jarai Tbuan: western Pleiku

Other related groups include:

  • HRoi: in western Phú Yên, southern Bình Định. Mixed Ede and Jarai people.
  • M’dhur: in southern Phú Yên. Mixed Ede and Jarai people.
  • Hàlang: in southwestern Kon Tum, and some in Laos and Cambodia. Mixed Sedang and Jarai people.


Influenced by the surrounding Mon–Khmer languages, words of the various Chamic languages of Southeast Asia, including Jarai, have become disyllabic with the stress on the second syllable. Additionally, Jarai has further evolved in the pattern of Mon–Khmer, losing almost all vowel distinction in the initial syllable. While trisyllabic words do exist, they are all loanwords. The typical Jarai word may be represented:


where the values in parentheses are optional and "(C)" in the cluster "C(C)" represents a liquid consonant /l/, /r/ or a semivowel /w/, /j/. In Jarai dialects spoken in Cambodia, the "(C)" in the cluster "C(C)" can also be the voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, a phoneme used by the Jarai in Cambodia, but not attested in Vietnam. The vowel of the first syllable in disyllabic words is most often the mid-central unrounded vowel, /ə/, unless the initial consonant is the glottal stop /ʔ/. The second vowel of the stressed syllable produces a diphthong.


  1. ^ Jarai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Jarai". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Đào Huy Quyền. 1998. Nhạc khí dân tộc Jrai và Bahnar [Musical instruments of the Jrai and Bahnar]. Hanoi: Nhà xuất bản trẻ.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lafont, Pierre-Bernard & Nguyễn Văn Trọng (1968). Lexique jarai, français, viêtnamien, parler de la province de Plei Ku. Publications de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, v 63. Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient.
  • Pittman, R. S. (1957). Jarai as a member of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages. Fargo, N.D.: Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota.
  • Reed, R. (1976). Jorai primer, guide and writing book. Vietnam education microfiche series, no. VE55-01/08/04. Huntington Beach, Calif: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Rơmah Dêl (1977). Từ Diển Việt - Gia Rai [Vietnamese - Jarai dictionary]. Hà Nội: Nhà xuất bản khoa học xã hội.
  • Tong Nang, N. (1975). An outline of Jarai grammar. Vietnam data microfiche series, no. VD55-01. Huntington Beach, Calif: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Siu, Lap M. (2009), Developing the First Preliminary Dictionary of North American Jarai. Master of Arts thesis in Anthropology, Texas Tech University.

External links[edit]