Cham is the language of the Cham people of Southeast Asia, and formerly the language of the kingdom of Champa in central Vietnam. A member of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian family, it is spoken by 204,000 people in Cambodia and 79,000 people in Vietnam. There are also small populations of speakers in Thailand and Malaysia. Other Chamic languages are spoken in Cambodia and/or Vietnam (Raglai, Rade, Jarai, Chru and Haroi), on Hainan (Tsat) and in Aceh, North Sumatra (Acehnese).
Cham is the oldest-attested Austronesian language, with the Dong Yen Chau inscription being dated to the late 4th century AD.
Cham is divided into two primary dialects. Western Cham is spoken by the Cham in Cambodia as well as in the adjacent Vietnamese provinces of An Giang and Tây Ninh. Eastern Cham is spoken by the coastal Cham populations in the Vietnamese provinces of Bình Thuận, Ninh Thuận, and Đồng Nai. The two regions where Cham is spoken are separated both geographically and culturally. The more numerous Western Cham are predominantly Muslim (although some in Cambodia now practice Theravada Buddhism) and use either the Arabic script or the Western version of the Cham alphabet while the Eastern Cham practice both Islam and Hinduism and use the Eastern version of the Cham alphabet. Ethnologue states that the two dialects are no longer mutually intelligible. The table below gives some examples of words where the two dialects differed as of the 19th century.
|save from drowning||srong||throng|
Lê et al. (2014:175) lists a few Cham subgroups.
This section needs to be updated.(August 2013)
There are several prefixes and infixes which can be used for word derivation.
Dummy pronominal subjects are sometimes used, echoing the subject:
|Inœû hudiêp dahlak||nhu||atong||adẽi puthang nhu.|
|my wife's mother||she||beat||her husband's younger sister|
|"My wife's mother beats her husband's younger sister."|
Composite verbs will behave as one inseparable verb, having the object come after it:
|Bloḥ||nhu||ḍiḥ dii apvẽi||anẽk lakẽi.|
|then||she||lie at fire (i.e.: give birth)||son|
|"Then she gave birth to a son."|
Sometimes, however, the verb is placed in front of the subject:
Auxiliary verbs are placed after any objects:
|"He brings his wife."|
If a sentence contains more than one main verb, one of the two will have an adverbial meaning:
|"He evaded death by hiding."|
Adjectives come after the nouns they modify:
|"a big house"|
If the order is reversed, the whole will behave like a compound:
|"a noisy person"|
Composite sentences can be formed with the particle krung:
It is also possible to leave out this particle, without change in meaning:
|Dahlak brẽi athêh nan||kaa va dahlak||∅||dok dii palẽi Ram.|
|I give this horse||to my uncle||who||live in the village of Ram|
|"I have given this horse to my uncle, who lives in the village of Ram."|
Questions are formed with the sentence-final particle rẽi:
|"Can you write, child?"|
Other question words are in situ:
|"Where are you going?"|
Like many languages in Eastern Asia, Cham uses numeral classifiers to express amounts. The classifier will always come after the numeral, with the noun coming invariably before or after the classifier-numeral pair.
The above examples show the classifier boḥ, which literally means "egg" and is the most frequently used — particularly for round and voluminous objects. Other classifiers are ôrang (person) for people and deities, ḅêk for long objects, blaḥ (leaf) for flat objects, and many others.
The days of the month are counted with a similar system, with two classifiers: one (bangun) used to count days before the full moon, and the other one (ranaṃ) for days after the full moon.
Personal pronouns behave like ordinary nouns and do not show any case distinctions. There are different forms depending on the level of politeness. The first person singular, for example, is kău in formal or distant context, while it is dahlak (in Vietnam) or hulun (in Cambodia) in an ordinarily polite context. As is the case with many other languages of the region, kinship terms are often used as personal pronouns.
|"bigger than his brother"|
There are some particles that can be used to indicate tense/aspect. The future is indicated with shi or thi in Vietnam, with hi or si in Cambodia. The perfect is expressed with jœû. The first one comes in front of the verb:
|"I will go now."|
The second one is sentence-final:
|"I'll be gone in a moment."|
Certain verbs can function as auxiliaries to express other tenses or aspects. The verb dok ("to stay") is used for the continuous, vœk ("to return") for the repetitive aspect, and kiœng ("to want") for the future tense.
The imperative is formed with the sentence-final particle bêk, and the negative imperative with the preverbal jvai/jvẽi (in Vietnam and Cambodia respectively).
|Eastern Cham language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
|Western Cham language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|