Southwestern Tai languages

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Thai
Southwestern Tai
Geographic
distribution:
Southeast Asia
Linguistic classification: Tai–Kadai
  • Tai
    • Zuojiang–Thai
      • Nung–Thai
        • Wenma–Southwestern[1]
          • Sapa–Thai
            • Thai
Proto-language: Proto-Thai
Subdivisions:
  • Southern Thai
  • Central–Eastern Thai
Glottolog: sout3184[2]
{{{mapalt}}}
Distribution of the Tai–Kadai language family.

The Southwestern Tai or Varieties of Thai are an established branch of the Tai languages of Southeast Asia. They include Siamese (standard Thai), Lao, and Shan in Burma.

Classification[edit]

The internal classification of the Southwestern Tai languages is still not well agreed on.

Chamberlain (1975)[edit]

Chamberlain (1975) divides Southwestern Tai into 4 branches.[3]

Chamberlain based his classification on the following phonological patterns. (Note: For an explanation of the notation system for Tai tones, see Proto-Tai language#Tones.)

  1. /p/ vs. /ph/
  2. tone *A column split/merger pattern
  3. tone *BCD columns split/merger patterns
  4. B-DL tonal coalescence
Proto-Southwestern Tai
  • Branch with distinguishing innovation: /p/
    • Branch with distinguishing innovation: *A 1-23-4
      • Tse Fang
      • Tai Mao
      • Muang Ka
    • Branch with distinguishing innovation: *ABCD 123-4; B=DL
      • Black Tai
      • Red Tai
      • White Tai
      • Lue
      • Shan
      • Yuan
      • Ahom
  • Branch with distinguishing innovation: /ph/ (*A 1-23-4)
    • Branch with distinguishing innovation: *BCD 123-4
      • Siamese
      • Phu Tai
      • Nuea[4]
      • Phuan
    • Branch with distinguishing innovation: *BCD 1-23-4; B≠DL
      • Lao
      • Southern Thai

Edmondson & Solnit (1997)[edit]

Edmondson & Solnit (1997) divide the Southwestern Tai languages into two major subgroups. According to this classification, Dehong Tai and Khamti are the first languages to have split off from the Southwestern Tai branch.[5]

  1. Northern: Tai Nua = Shan-Tayok (Chinese Shan), Khamti
  2. Southern: Burman Shan ("Shan proper"), all other Southwestern Tai

A transition zone between the Northern and Southern groups occurs among the Tai languages (including Tai Mau) around the Burma-China border region of Mangshi, Namhkam, and Mu-se near Ruili.

This bipartite division of Southwestern Tai is argued for by Edward Robinson in his paper "Features of Proto-Nüa-Khamti" (1994). The following features set off the Nüa-Khamti group from all the other Southwestern Tai languages.

  1. Labialized velar stops have become velar stops.
  2. Tripartite split of the A tone A1-23-4
  3. Merger of A23 and B4
  4. The low vowels /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ have merged with /e/ and /o/, respectively.
  5. *ʔb > m

Luo (2001)[edit]

Luo Yongxian (2001) also recognizes the uniqueness of Dehong Tai (Tai Nüa), but argues for that it should be placed in a separate Northwestern Tai branch with Southwestern Tai as a sister branch.[6] Luo claims that the Northwestern Tai branch has many Northern Tai and Central Tai features that are not found in Southwestern Tai. His proposed tree for the Tai branch is as follows.

  • Tai
    • Northern
    • Central
    • Southwestern
    • Northwestern

Pittayaporn (2009)[edit]

According to Pittayaporn (2009:301), Southwestern Tai (his subgroup Q) is defined by a phonological shift of *kr- → *ʰr-.[7]

Languages[edit]

Southern Thai (Pak Thai) is often posited to be the most divergent; it seems to retain regular reflexes of early tonal developments that were obscured in the other (Central–Eastern) languages. The reconstructed language is called Proto-Thai; cf. Proto-Tai, which is the ancestor of all of the Tai languages.

The following tree follows that of Ethnologue.

According to Ethnologue, other Southwestern languages are Tai Ya (China), Pu Ko (Laos), Pa Di (China), Tai Thanh (Vietnam), Tai Long (Laos), Tai Hongjin (China), Yong (Thailand). It is not clear where they belong in the classification above. Ethnologue also lists under Tai, without further classification, Kuan (Laos), Rien (Laos), Tai Do (Viet Nam), Tai Pao (Laos), and Tay Khang (Laos). Geographically these would all appear to be Southwestern.[8]

Ethnologue also includes Tày Sa Pa (Sapa) of Vietnam, which Pittayaporn excludes from Southwestern Tai but classifies as the most closely related language outside of that group. Pittayaporn also includes Yoy, which Ethnologue classifies as a Northern Tai language.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Wenma–Southwestern Tai". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Thai". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Chamberlain, James R. 1975. "A new look at the history and classification of the Tai dialects." In J. G. Harris and J. R. Chamberlain, eds, Studies in Tai Linguistics in Honor of William J. Gedney, pp. 49-60. Bangkok: Central Institute of English Language, Office of State Universities.
  4. ^ However, this may be an error, since Nuea has /p/, not /ph/.
  5. ^ Edmondson, Jerold A., Solnit, David B., authors. 1997. "Comparative Shan." In Comparative Kadai: The Tai branch, Jerold A. Edmondson and David B. Solnit (eds.). pages 337-359. Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics 124. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington.
  6. ^ Luo Yongxian. 2001. The Hypothesis of a New Branch for the Tai Languages. University of Melbourne.
  7. ^ Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. 2009. The Phonology of Proto-Tai. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Cornell University.
  8. ^ a b Lewis, M. Paul (2009), Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16 ed.), SIL International 

External links[edit]