WORLD LANGUAGES (6) / SINO-TIBETAN ; TAI-KADAI

Now, we slide into China and South-east Asia. Still long way to learn, everybody!

Here we go!


Sino Tibetan

Sino-Tibetan languages, group of languages that includes both the Chinese and the Tibeto-Burman languages. In terms of numbers of speakers, they constitute the world’s second largest language family (after Indo-European), including more than 300 languages and major dialects. In a wider sense, Sino-Tibetan has been defined as also including the Tai (Daic) and Karen language families. Some scholars also include the Hmong-Mien (Miao-Yao) languages and even the Ket language of central Siberia, but the affiliation of these languages to the Sino-Tibetan group has not been conclusively demonstrated. 

Sino-Tibetan languages were known for a long time by the name of Indochinese, which is now restricted to the languages of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. They were also called Tibeto-Chinese until the now universally accepted designation Sino-Tibetan was adopted. (source : here)

TIBETO – BURMAN

Tibeto-Burman languages are spoken in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and in Myanmar (Burma); in the Himalayas, including the countries of Nepal and Bhutan and the state of Sikkim, India; in Assam, India, and in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

They also are spoken by hill tribes throughout mainland Southeast Asia and central China (the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan). Tibetic (i.e., Tibetan in the widest sense of the word) comprisesa number of dialects and languages spoken in Tibet and the Himalayas. Burmic (Burmese in its widest application) includes Yi (Lolo), Hani, Lahu, Lisu, Kachin (Jingpo), Kuki-Chin, the obsolete Xixia (Tangut), and other languages.

The Tibetan writing system (which dates from the 7th century) and the Burmese (dating from the 11th century) are derived from the Indo-Aryan (Indic) tradition. The Xixia system (developed in the 11th–13th century in northwestern China) was based on the Chinese model. Pictographic writing systems, which show some influence from Chinese, were developed within the past 500 years by Yi and Naxi (formerly Moso) tribes in western China. In modern times many Tibeto-Burman languages have acquired writing systems in Roman (Latin) script or in the script of the host country (Thai, Burmese, Indic, and others).

TIBETIC
The Tibetic (also called the Bodic, from Bod, the Tibetan name for Tibet) division comprises the Bodish-Himalayish, Kirantish, and Mirish language groups.

BURMIC
The Burmic division comprises Burmish, Kachinish, and Kukish. A number of Tibeto-Burman languages that are difficult to classify have marginal affiliations with Burmic.

LUISH
The Luish languages (Andro, Sengmai, Kadu, Sak, and perhaps also Chairel) in Manipur, India, and adjacent Myanmar resemble Kachin; Nung (including Rawang and Trung) in Kachin state in Myanmar and in Yunnan province, China, has similarities with Kachin; and Mikir in Assam, as well as Mru and Meitei (Meetei) in India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, seem close to Kukish.

BARIC
The Baric, or Bodo-Garo, division consists of a number of languages spoken in Assam and falls into a Bodo branch (not to be confused with Bodic-Tibetic, and Bodish, a subdivision of Tibetic) and a Garo branch. A group of Sino-Tibetan languages in Nagaland (Nagish, not to be confused with the Nagabranch of Kukish; including Mo Shang, Namsang, and Banpara) has affinities to Baric.

KARENIC
The Karenic languages of Karen state in Myanmar and adjacent areas in Myanmar and Thailand include the two major languages of the Pho (Pwo) and Sgaw, which have some 3.2 million speakers. Taungthu (Pa-o) is close to Pho, and Palaychi to Sgaw. There are several minor groups.

SINITIC or CHINESE

Sinitic languages, commonly known as the Chinese dialects, are spoken in China and on the island of Taiwan and by important minorities in all the countries of Southeast Asia (by a majority only in Singapore). In addition, Sinitic languages are spoken by Chinese immigrants in many parts of the world, notably in Oceania and in North and South America; altogether there are nearly 1.2 billion speakers of Chinese languages. Sinitic is divided into a number of language groups, by far the most important of which is Mandarin (or Northern Chinese). Mandarin, which includes Modern Standard Chinese (based on the Beijing dialect), is not only the most important language of the Sino-Tibetan family but also has the most ancient writing tradition still in use of any modern language.

The remaining Sinitic language groups are ;
Wu (including Shanghai dialect), 
Xiang (Hsiang, or Hunanese), 
Gan (Kan), 
Hakka
Yue (Yüeh, or Cantonese, including Canton [Guangzhou] and Hong Kong dialects), and 
Min (including Fuzhou, Amoy [Xiamen], Swatow [Shantou], and Taiwanese).

The Chinese terms for Modern Standard Chinese are putonghua “common language” and guoyu “national language” (the latter term is used in Taiwan).

Reconstructed prehistoric Chinese is known as Proto-Sinitic (or Proto-Chinese). The oldest historic language of China is called Archaic, or Old, Chinese (8th–3rd centuries BCE), and that of the next period up to and including the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) is known as Ancient, or Middle, Chinese. Languages of later periods include Old, Middle, and Modern Mandarin (the name Mandarin is a translation of guanhua, “civil servant language”). Through history the Sinitic language area has constantly expanded from the “Middle Kingdom” around the eastern Huang He (Yellow River) to its present size. The persistence of a common nonphonetic writing system for centuries explains why the word dialect rather than language has had widespread usage for referring to the modern speech forms. The present-day spoken languages are not mutually intelligible (some are further apart than Portuguese is from Italian), and neither are the major subdivisions within each group. The variation is slightest in the western and southwestern provinces and greatest along the Huang He and in the coastal areas.

A vernacular written tradition exists mainly in Beijing Mandarin and in Cantonese, spoken in the vicinity of Guangzhou (Canton). An unwritten storytelling tradition has survived in most languages. The school and radio language is Modern Standard Chinese in China as well as in Taiwan and Singapore. In Hong Kong, Cantonese prevails as the language of education and in the communication media, but efforts are now made to adopt Modern Standard Chinese as a norm. The same orthographic system is employed, with some variations, by all speakers of Chinese.

Non-Chinese Sino-Tibetan languages of China include some Lolo-type languages (Burmish)—Yi, with nearly 7,000,000 speakers in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi; Hani (Akha) with about 500,000 speakers in YunnanLisu, with approximately 610,000 speakers in Yunnan; Lahu, with about 440,000 speakers in Yunnan; and Naxi, with approximately 300,000 speakers mostly in Yunnan and Sichuan. Other Sino-Tibetan languages in Yunnan and Sichuan are Kachin and the closely related Atsi (Zaiwa); Achang, Nu, Pumi (Primi), Qiang, Gyarung, Xifan; and Bai (Minjia, probably a separate branch within Sinitic).

(source : here)


Tai-Kadai (Kra-Dai)

The Kra–Dai languages (also known as Tai–KadaiDaic and Kadai) are a language family of tonal languages found in southern China, Northeast India and Southeast Asia. They include Thai and Lao, the national languages of Thailand and Laos respectively. Around 93 million people speak Kra–Dai languages, 60% of whom speak Thai. Ethnologue lists 95 languages in the family, with 62 of these being in the Tai branch.

The high diversity of Kra–Dai languages in southern China points to the origin of the Kra–Dai language family in southern China. The Tai branch moved south into Southeast Asia only around 1000 AD.

Kra–Dai consists of at least five well established branches, namely Kra, Kam–Sui, Tai, Be and Hlai (Ostapirat 2005:109).

  • Tai (southern China and Southeast Asia; by far the largest branch)
  • Kra (southern China, northern Vietnam; called Kadai in Ethnologue)
  • Kam–Sui (Guizhou and Guangxi, China)
  • Be (Hainan; possibly also includes Jizhao of Guangdong)
  • Hlai (Hainan)

Chinese linguists have also proposed a Kam–Tai group that includes Kam–Sui, Tai and Be.

Kra–Dai languages that are not securely classified, and may constitute independent Kra-Dai branches, include the following.

  • Lakkia and Biao, which may or may not subgroup with each other, are difficult to classify due to aberrant vocabulary, but are sometimes classified as sisters of Kam–Sui (Solnit 1988).[13]
  • Jiamao of southern Hainan, China is an aberrant Kra-Dai language traditionally classified as a Hlai language, although Jiamao contains many words of non-Hlai origin.
  • Jizhao of Guangdong, China is currently unclassified within Kra–Dai, but appears to be most closely related to Be (Ostapirat 1998).

Kra–Dai languages of mixed origins are:

  • Hezhang BuyiNorthern Tai and Kra
  • ENorthern Tai and Pinghua Chinese
  • CaolanNorthern Tai and Central Tai
  • SanqiaoKam–Sui, Hmongic and Chinese
  • JiamaoHlai and other unknown elements (perhaps Austroasiatic?)

(source : here)


(to be continued)

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