Indonesia (Aceh), Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China (Hainan Island), various countries with recent immigrants
Linguistic classificationAustronesian
ISO 639-2 / 5cmc
Glottologcham1327  (Aceh–Chamic)
cham1330  (Chamic)

The Chamic languages, also known as Aceh–Chamic and Acehnese–Chamic, are a group of ten languages spoken in Aceh (Sumatra, Indonesia) and in parts of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Hainan, China. The Chamic languages are a subgroup of Malayo-Polynesian languages in the Austronesian family. The ancestor of this subfamily, proto-Chamic, is associated with the Sa Huỳnh culture, its speakers arriving in what is now Vietnam from Formosa.[1]

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 the most northern and least spoken, with only 3000 speakers.


Cham has the oldest literary history of any Austronesian language. The Dong Yen Chau inscription, written in Old Cham, dates from the late 4th century AD.

Extensive borrowing resulting from long-term contact have caused Chamic and the Bahnaric languages, a branch of the Austroasiatic family, to have many vocabulary items in common.[1][2]


Graham Thurgood gives the following classification for the Chamic languages.[3] Individual languages are marked by italics.

Speakers of Acehnese.

The Proto-Chamic numerals from 7 to 9 are shared with those of the Malayic languages, providing partial evidence for a Malayo-Chamic subgrouping.[4]

Roger Blench[5] also proposes that there may have been at least one other Austroasiatic branch in coastal Vietnam that is now extinct, based on various Austroasiatic loanwords in modern-day Chamic languages that cannot be clearly traced to existing Austroasiatic branches.[5][6]


Reconstruction ofChamic languages

The Proto-Chamic reconstructed below is from Graham Thurgood's 1999 publication From Ancient Cham to Modern Dialects.[1]


The following table of Proto-Chamic presyllabic consonants are from Thurgood.[7] 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[1]
Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive Voiceless p t c k
Voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Nasal m ɲ[8]
Lateral l
Tap or trill r
Fricative s h

The following consonant clusters are reconstructed for Proto-Chamic:[9] *pl-, *bl-, *kl-, *gl-, *pr-, *tr-, *kr-, *br-, *dr-.


There are four vowels (*-a, *-i, *-u, and *-e, or alternatively *-ə) and three diphthongs (*-ay, *-uy, *-aw).[1]

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:[1]


Proto-Chamic has the following personal pronouns:[10]



Proto-Chamic and Chamic lexical correspondences

Proto-Chamic, Mainland Chamic, Acehnese and Malay comparative table:

Gloss Proto-Chamic Western Cham Eastern Cham Roglai Aceh Malay
one *sa /sa ha/ /tha/ /sa/ /sa/ satu
seven *tujuh /taçuh/ /taçŭh/ /tijuh/ /tujoh/ tujuh
fire *ʔapuy /pui/ /apuy/ /apui/ /apui/ api
sky *laŋit /laŋiʔ/ /laŋiʔ/ Lingik /laŋĩːʔ/ /laŋɛt/ langit
rice (husked) *braːs /prah/ /prah-l/ /bra/ /brɯəh/ beras
iron *bisεy /pasay/ /pithăy/ /pisǝy/ /bɯsɔə/ besi
sugarcane *tabɔw-v /tapau/ /tapăw/ /tubəu/ /tɯbɛə/ tebu


  1. ^ a b c d e f Thurgood 1999.
  2. ^ Sidwell 2009.
  3. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 36.
  4. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 37.
  5. ^ a b Blench, Roger (2009). "Are There Four Additional Unrecognised Branches of Austroasiatic?".
  6. ^ Sidwell, Paul (2006). "Dating the Separation of Acehnese and Chamic By Etymological Analysis of the Aceh-Chamic Lexicon" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies. 36: 187–206. doi:10.15144/MKSJ-36.187. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-11-08.
  7. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 68.
  8. ^ Reflexes of ɲ are rare in modern Chamic languages.
  9. ^ Thurgood 1999, p. 93.
  10. ^ Thurgood 1999, pp. 247–248.