Contrastive topic in Eastern Cham

“Contrastive topic in Eastern Cham”

Kenneth Baclawski Jr.

Eastern Cham is an Austronesian language spoken in south-central Vietnam by about 100,000 people. It is considered endangered due to a lack of intergenerational transmission, high levels of bilingualism with Vietnamese, and limited language education (cf. Brunelle 2008; Moseley 2010). Following the period from the 1650’s to the 1800’s, Eastern Cham has been in a unidirectional language contact situation with Vietnamese, the dominant socioeconomic language of the area (cf. Po 1991). The prevalence of language contact has led to numerous proposed contact effects from Vietnamese (cf. Thurgood 1999; Brunelle & Phú, forthcoming). Data for this paper come from the author’s field elicitation with 15 native speakers of university age from the Cham villages of Ninh Thuận province, Vietnam. These speakers exhibit numerous such contact effects, and there is inter- and intra-speaker variation present in numerous lexical items (cf. Baclawski Jr., forthcoming).
In the following sections, the form hu is analyzed as a contrastive topic marker. In previous literature, hu is noted to be polyfunctional. Thurgood & Li (2003) and Brunelle & Phú (forthcoming) explore its grammaticalization paths. In contemporary Eastern Cham, hu is a verb meaning ‘have’, a clause-final root modal, and an existential copula (3a). In addition to these uses, hu often accompanies negation in a variety of positions, such as 2 predicate-initial (3b), and it can also mark contrastive topic in these same positions (3c).2 The forms of hu in (3a–c) are different from the ‘have’ and modal uses, as they are not in verbal or clause-final positions, and the relevant meanings are absent. In Section 3, existential clefts, negation, and contrastive topic are explored further.


…Eastern Cham hu acts variously as a contrastive topic, existential closure, and verum focus marker. We hypothesize that these three uses represent two separate lexical items: hu1, a general CT marker, and hu2, the existential. This relies on an analysis of verum focus as propositional contrastive topic. This adds to the known grammaticalization paths of hu from a verb meaning ‘have’ to a root modal and existential copula (Thurgood & Li 2003). One possible historical account for this current state is that hu2 existed prior, with the syntactic distribution described in Section 3. Then, verum focus semantics were calqued from Vietnamese có, such that some instances of hu marked 14 verum focus. But since hu can also combine with individual predicates, verum focus (i.e. contrastive topic) semantics spread to its current status as a general CT marker. While this is a tentative conjecture, the negation paradigm and verum focus semantics appear to be recent developments (cf. Brunelle & Phú, forthcoming on negation).

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Citation: Baclawski, K. (2018). Contrastive topic in Eastern Cham. Berkeley Papers in Formal Linguistics1(1)

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