Bahnaric languages

Linguistic classification:


  • Bahnaric
  • Central Bahnaric
  • North Bahnaric
  • West Bahnaric
Glottolog: bahn1264[1]

The Bahnaric languages are a group of about thirty Austroasiatic languages spoken by about 700,000 people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Paul Sidwell notes that Austroasiatic/Mon–Khmer languages are lexically more similar to Bahnaric and Katuic languages the closer they are geographically, independently of which branch of the family they belong to, but that Bahnaric and Katuic do not have any shared innovations that would suggest that together they form a branch of the Austroasiatic family.


Internal diversity suggests that the family broke up about 3000 years ago. North Bahnaric is characterized by a register contrast between breathy and modal voice, which in Sedang has tensed to become modal–creaky voice.

Lamam is a clan name of the neighboring Tampuon and Kaco’.

Sidwell (2009) tentatively classifies the Bahnaric languages into four branches, with Cua (Kor) classified independently as East Bahnaric.[2][3]

Unclassified Bahnaric languages of Cambodia include Mel, Khaonh, Ra’ong, and Thmon.[4]


North Bahnaric

North Bahnaric consists of a dialect chain spoken to the north of the Chamic languages.[5] Sedang and Hre have the most speakers, each with about 100,000.







Monom (Bonam, Monam)

Todrah (Didrah, Modrah)




Other Northern Bahnaric languages, too poorly known to classify further, are Duan and Katua.

West Bahnaric

West Bahnaric is a dialect chain to the west of North Bahnaric,[6] Unlike the other Bahnaric languages to the east, the West Bahnaric languages were under Khmer rather than Chamic influence, and also by the Katuic languages as part of a Katuic-West Bahnaric sprachbund (Sidwell 2003).

Sidwell (2003) proposes the following West Bahnaric groupings, with Lavi branching off first, Jru'/Laven, Su', and Juk as forming a branch that had branched off secondarily, and the rest within a core group. Jru' and Brao each have tens of thousands of speakers, while the other languages have no more than 1,000 speakers each.

Central Bahnaric

Central Bahnaric is a language family divided by the Chamic languages,[6][7] Bahnar, Mnong, and Sre (Koho) each have over 100,000 speakers.

Kassang is a Bahnaric language (Sidwell 2003), though Ethnologue lists it as Katuic.

Sidwell (2002, quoted in Sidwell 2003) gives the following classification for the Central Bahnaric languages.[8] Note that Sidwell (2009) later classifies Cua as an independent branch, namely East Bahnaric.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Bahnaric". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Sidwell, Paul. 2009. "How many branches in a tree? Cua and East (North) Bahnaric". In Evans, Bethwyn (ed). Discovering History Through Language: Papers in Honour of Malcolm Ross. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  3. Sidwell, Paul. 2010. "Cua (Kor) historical phonology and classification." Mon-Khmer Studies 39:105-122.
  4. Barr, Julie and Eric Pawley. 2013. Bahnaric Language Cluster survey of Mondul Kiri and Kratie Provinces, Cambodia. SIL International.
  5. Sidwell, Edmondson, & Gregerson. 2011. "The North Bahnaric Clade: A Computational Approach." In Srichampa, Sidwell & Gregerson (eds.) Austroasiatic Studies: papers from the ICAAL4: Mon-Khmer Studies Journal Special Issue No. 3, pp.23-37
  6. 1 2
  7. 1 2
  8. Sidwell, Paul (2002). "Genetic classification of the Bahnaric languages: a comprehensive review." Mon-Khmer Studies: A Journal of Southeast Asian Linguistics and Languages 32: 1-24.

Further reading

External links

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