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  • A grammatical sketch and phonology of Hainan Cham: History, contact and change by Graham Thurgood, Ela Thurgood, and Fengxiang Li
  • Anthony Grant
Graham Thurgood, Ela Thurgood, and Fengxiang Li. 2014. A grammatical sketch and phonology of Hainan Cham: History, contact and change. Pacific Linguistics 643. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. xxiv 404 pp. ISBN 978-1-61451-604-0. €99.95/ $114.99/ £91.00, hardcover.

Readers coming across this book will be startled by the modesty of its title, because it is so much more. It is in fact a summary and collection of all of what is so far known about Hainan Cham, a Chamic language whose speakers have been settled in the far south of Hainan for a little over a thousand years. The Thurgoods and Li (hereafter TTL) have not only assembled a grammatical description (rather than merely a sketch as the title maintains) but also provided a careful study of phonetics and phonology, including the historical phonology that underlies tonogenesis of Hainan Cham (hereafter HC, and also known as Tsat, formerly Utsat).

Sanya City, at the extreme south of Hainan Province, is the city near which the 5,000 or so speakers of HC live. They are Sunni Muslims who are multilingual in HC, Southern Min, the Min variety Mai, and often also Cantonese, Mandarin, and sometimes the non-Chinese Hlai. Speakers occupy two villages, Huihui and Huixin. Much of the material in this book is based on the work by Zheng (1997; research conducted in the 1980s), the essence of which has been translated into English, but a small amount of new material has been collected by the authors of the present book, and TTL are responsible for the detailed acoustic phonetic analysis drawn from their fieldwork in 2004.

The first author, Graham Thurgood, is renowned for his work on languages of East and Southeast Asia (notably Thurgood and LaPolla 2003), and in this case, he is known most especially for Thurgood (1998), a historical account of the development of Chamic languages which was reviewed in this journal by Blust (2000). Historical phonology was rightly at the heart of that work. Thurgood's belief in the regularity of sound correspondences between Proto-Chamic and its daughters enabled him to spot irregularities and to devise a method for bookmarking such issues with codes indicating where in a word an irregular reflex of a sound appeared. This precision enables TTL to place HC within the range of the Chamic languages of Vietnam and Cambodia, which are most closely related to Acehnese of Sumatra and thereafter to the Malayic group of Western Malayo-Polynesian, and to suggest that its closest relative is probably Northern Roglai, which is still used in Vietnam.1 [End Page 434]

There is also a thoroughgoing account of tonogenesis in HC, and the ways in which the tones have developed are carefully explained. Unlike languages such as Mandarin, in which certain (mostly grammatical) syllables bear no tone, all syllables in HC receive tone, which is written in this book as a pair of superscript syllables. Of at least equal importance to tonogenesis in HC is the development of the language from its original disyllabic form into one which is primarily monosyllabic. The stressed syllables of Proto-Chamic words are the ones that tend to remain, and in this regard HC has taken sesquisyllabicity, a Mon-Khmer trait well attested at various stages in a number of Chamic languages, to extremes. The notation for tone-marking used follows that of Yuen Ren Chao (Chao 1930), and each tone is represented by two or three numerals. This system represents the start and end of each tone, in pairs of superscript numerals, with 1 as the lowest and 5 as the highest, for example, sa22 'GLOSS'.

In terms of structure this book strongly resembles Sun and Liu (2009) (edited and translated by TTL), a grammar of the endangered Tibeto-Burman language Anong. This should not surprise us; we may think of a TTL model of descriptive grammar, characterized by a "nose-to-tail" interest in linguistic phenomena from articulation to discourse structure and all levels in between. Here, too, attention is paid to the...


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