Author: Prof. John Haiman
Hardcover: 444 pages
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Date: September 29, 2011
File: 20mb pdf scanned
Cambodian is in many respects a typical Southeast Asian language, whose syntax at least on first acquaintance seems to approximate that of any SVO pidgin. On closer acquaintance, however, because of the richness of its idioms, the language seems to be a forbiddingly alien form of “Desesperanto” – a language of which one can read a page and understand every word individually, and have no inkling of what the page was all about. Like many of the languages of its genetic (Austroasiatic) family, its basic root vocabulary seems to consist largely of sesquisyllabic or iambic words, although there are an enormous number of unassimilated borrowings from Indic languages (which seem to play the same role in Cambodian that Latinate borrowings do in English). Morphologically, Cambodian has a fairly elaborate system of derivational affixes, and it is possible that the genesis of many of the most common of these affixes is related to (and undoes) the constant reduction of unstressed initial syllables in sesquisyllabic words. Again like many of the languages of Southeast Asia, Cambodian exhibits in its lexicon a penchant for symmetrical decorative compounding, a phenomenon which is so marginally attested in Western languages that the phenomenon has received little attention in the typological literature.