The Sinitic languages, often synonymous with the Chinese languages, are a language family frequently postulated as one of two primary branches of Sino-Tibetan. The Bai language may be Sinitic (classification is difficult); otherwise Sinitic is equivalent to the Chinese languages, and often used in opposition to "Chinese dialects" to convey the idea that these are distinct languages rather than dialects of a single language.
Assuming Bai is Sinitic, it diverged at approximately the time of Old Chinese, perhaps before. By the time of Middle Chinese, the Min languages had also split off. An evidence is that all Chinese languages can be fit into the structure of Qieyun except Min. Languages traceable to Middle Chinese include Mandarin, Wu, Hakka, and Yue. As more comparative work is done, additional "dialects" are found to be mutually unintelligible with their parent language; the latest to be separated out as languages were Huizhou, Jin, Pinghua, and Qiongwen, though the remaining Wu and Yue varieties are not all mutually intelligible, or have very limited intelligibility. Some varieties remain unclassified within Chinese.
- ? Bai (not all varieties mutually intelligible.)
- ? Caijia
- Ba-Shu †
- Wu (incl. Shanghainese)
- Yue (Cantonese)
- Old Southwestern Chinese
- Excluding those exclusive to ethnic minorities, the principal unclassified varieties of Chinese are:
- Merritt Ruhlen (1991) A Guide to the World's Languages, p. 145: "According to Benedict (1983), new material on the Bai language(s) indicates that Greenberg was correct, and that Sinitic consists of two branches, Chinese and Bai."
- "Sinitic" means relating to China or the Chinese. It is derived from the Greco-Latin word Sīnai "the Chinese", probably from Arabic Ṣīn "China", from the Chinese dynastic name Qín. (OED)
- Anatole Lyovin (1997) An Introduction to the Languages of the World, Oxford University Press
- George van Driem (2001) Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region. Brill. pp. 329 ff.
- Van Driem 2001:380 "Ba'i ... may form a constituent of Sinitic, albeit one heavily influenced by Lolo–Burmese."
- N. J. Enfield (2003:69) Linguistics Epidemiology, Routledge.
- See also, for example, W. Hannas (1997) Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, University of Hawaii Press.
- Mei Tsu-lin (1970) "Tones and Prosody in Middle Chinese and The Origin of The Rising Tone," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 30:86–110
- "Middle Chinese: A Study in Historical Phonology" by E. G. Pulleyblank