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  • Jazyk čam. Ustnyje govora vostočnogo dialekta [The Cham language: Oral lects of the Eastern dialect]
  • Anthony P. Grant
Natalia F. Alieva and Bùi Khánh Th[inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="01i" /]. 1999. Jazyk čam. Ustnyje govora vostočnogo dialekta [The Cham language: Oral lects of the Eastern dialect]. St. Petersburg: Orientalia. 184 pp. US$29.95.

In 1979 a joint Soviet-Vietnamese research commission conducted primary fieldwork on a number of under-documented languages in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The results of three of these linguistic investigations, those carried out on the Mon-Khmer languages Muong (which belongs to the Vietic branch of Mon-Khmer) and Xinh Mul (a Khmuic language and therefore also Mon-Khmer), and on the Kam-Tai language Laha, have already been published (Laha 1986, Muong 1987, Xinh Mul 1990).

Now, after 20 years, there appear some of the results of a linguistic investigation into an Austronesian language, namely Eastern Cham or Phan Rang Cham, a member of the Chamic subbranch of the Malayo-Chamic subdivision of Western Malayo-Polynesian. This research was conducted in Phan Rang (the former city of Panduranga), southern coastal Vietnam, by Natalia Alieva, a Russian specialist in Malay and Māori with interests in Cham (for instance, Alieva 1992), and the Vietnamese linguist Bùi Khành Th. With the appearance of a large Eastern Cham-Vietnamese dictionary (Bùi Khành Th 1995) and the imminent publication of a structural sketch of the language (Thurgood to appear) that is based largely upon an analysis of three texts that were collected and published by the SIL missionary linguist Doris Blood (Blood 1978), Eastern Cham ranks second only to Acehnese among Chamic languages in terms of its degree and range of coverage in modern linguistic descriptions.

It is clear that the book's focus is solidly on Eastern Cham, though here and there mention is made of the occurrence of different forms in Western Cham. Acehnese parallels of certain Eastern Cham words are cited occasionally, but very little is said about other Chamic languages such as Jarai, though the authors quietly acknowledge the existence of a Chamic group of languages. The "oral lects" that are referred to in the Russian subtitle indicate that the subject matter of the book under review is the spoken modern Eastern Cham language, rather than the artificially conservative written language that was used in Champa both before and after its political dissolution—which represents an earlier form of speech that is ancestral both to Eastern and Western Cham.

The book's cover shows an illustration of a typical Cham house with balcony and pointed roof. The work opens with an introduction to the history and fate of the Chams, which contains much information that is otherwise rather hard to find, and which includes two useful maps (9, 11) of the positions of Cham settlements. The table of letters in the traditional Cham alphabet (19-20) is useful, although it is unfortunate that it is split across two pages.

The structural description is of the traditional kind and is organized according to a conception of the parts of speech that is intended to be relevant to a study of Cham. The segmental phonological description precedes the sections on morphology and syntax; there is also a short section (33-36) on the lexicon of Eastern Cham, but this is mostly taken up with a discussion of compounding and of cases of homonymy. The orthography used for writing Cham is phonemic, and the discussion of the segmental [End Page 273] phonology is well illustrated. Comparativists and others may wish to note that earlier Cham /r/ can now alternate postconsonantally with /j/ or with a recently arisen allophone of /r/ that is written in the book with a <z> plus subscript hook. The Latin-based transcriptional system used for writing Cham is fairly clear; the symbol <j> stands for IPA [j], while the same symbol but with an acute accent instead of a dot stands for the voiced alveopalatal affricate, and this last sound may occur as an implosive. The authors have indicated the existence of a (historically...