The Jarai language (in Vietnamese Cho-Rai, Chor, Chrai, Djarai, Gia-Rai, Gio-Rai, Jorai or Mthur; in Khmer ភាសាចារ៉ាយ - Pheasaea Chrai) is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by the Jarai people of Vietnam and Cambodia. The speakers of Jarai number approximately 262,800 without counting other possible Jarai communities in countries different to Vietnam and Cambodia such as United States of America. They are the largest of the upland ethnic groups of Vietnam's Central Highlands known as Degar or Montagnards and the 25% of the population in the Cambodian province of Ratanakiri.
A number of Jarai also live in the United States, having resettled there following the Vietnam War.
The Jarai language has been classified since 1864 as a Western Malayo-Polynesian Malayic, Achinese-Chamic, Chamic, South, Plateau identified by M. Fontaine as related to the languages of the Thiames (Chams) and Rade of the ancient kingdom of Champa, today the province of Annam.
Jarai is spoken by some 262,800 people in Cambodia and Vietnam (Simons, 2017) where it is recognized as an official minority language, although in Cambodia it has not its own writing in the Khmer scripts. Additionally there are some hundreds of Jarai speakers in United States from the Jarai refugees settled in that country after the Vietnamese War. Jarai dialects can be mutually unintelligible. Đào Huy Quyền (1998) lists the following subgroups of Jarai dialects and their respective locations.
Other related groups include:
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.
During the French Indochina, they introduced a Jarai alphabet using the Vietnamese alphabet at the beginning of the 20th century. With the introduction of the Bible in Jarai language, using that alphabet by Christian missionaries in Vietnam after the Vietnamese War, the Jarai increased their literacy and there are today many publications for the Vietnamese Jarai. There are 40 letters - 21 consonants + 19 vowels / 34 phonemes - 9 vowel phonemes + 25 consonant phonemes.
There are 9 vowels:
|Front||Central||Back unrounded||Back rounded|
There are 24 consonants:
|Bilabial Dental / Alveolar||Post Alveolar||Palatal||Velar||Glottal|
|Stops: Voiceless plain||p / t||k||ʔ|
|Voiceless aspirated||p (h) / t (h)||k (h)|
|Voiced plain||b / d||ʔd (j)||g|
|Nasals||m / n||ɲ||ŋ|
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