|Southern China (esp. Guangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangdong), Southeast Asia|
|ISO 639-2 / 5:||tai|
Distribution of the Tai–Kadai language family.
The Tai languages are:
Northern Tai / Northern Zhuang
Central Tai / Southern Zhuang
Southwestern Tai / Thai
The Tai or Zhuang–Tai languages (Thai: ภาษาไท or ภาษาไต, transliteration: p̣hās̛̄āthay or p̣hās̛̄ātay) are a branch of the Tai–Kadai language family. The Tai languages include the most widely spoken of the Tai–Kadai languages, including standard Thai or Siamese, the national language of Thailand; Lao or Laotian, the national language of Laos; Burma's Shan language; and Zhuang, a major language in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi.
Cognates with the name Tai (Thai, Dai, etc.) are used by speakers of many Tai languages. The term Tai is now well-established as the generic name in English. Several Lao linguists have objected to this, advocating that Siamese Thai should be considered a Lao language, but this has not made much headway in English usage. Because Tai is homophonous with Thai, the national language of Thailand, some linguists continue to use Siamese for the latter. Similarly, the terms Dai and Daic have fallen somewhat out of favor as the name for the entire family, with forms based on Kadai now more common.
Many of the languages are called Zhuang in China and Nung in Vietnam.
Citing the fact that both the Zhuang and Thai peoples have the same exonym for the Vietnamese, kɛɛuA1, Jerold A. Edmondson of the University of Texas, Arlington posited that the split between Zhuang (a Central Tai language) and the Southwest Tai languages happened no earlier than the founding of Jiaozhi (交址) in Vietnam in 112 BCE but no later than the 5th–6th century.
Haudricourt emphasizes the specificity of Dioi (Zhuang) and proposes to make a two-way distinction between the following two sets. The language names used in Haudricourt's (1956) original are provided first, followed by currently more widespread ethnonyms in brackets.
Characteristics of the Dioi group pointed out by Haudricourt are (i) a correspondence between r- in Dioi and the lateral l- in the other Tai languages, (ii) divergent characteristics of the vowel systems of the Dioi group: e.g. 'tail' has a /a/ vowel in Tai proper, as against /ə̄/ in Bo-ai, /iə/ in Tianzhou, and /ɯə/ in Tianzhou and Wuming, and (iii) the lack, in the Dioi group, of aspirated stops and affricates, which are found everywhere in Tai proper.
As compared with Li Fang-kuei's classification, Haudricourt's classification amounts to consider Li's Southern Tai and Central Tai as forming a subgroup, of which Southwestern Tai is a sister: the three last languages in Haudricourt's list of 'Tai proper' languages are Tho (Tày), Longzhou, and Nung, which Li classifies as 'Central Tai'.
Li Fang-Kuei divided Tai into Northern, Central, and Southwestern (Thai) branches. However, Central Tai does not appear to be a valid group. Li (1977) proposes a tripartite division of Tai into three sister branches. This classification scheme has long been accepted as the standard one in the field of comparative Tai linguistics.
Gedney (1989) considers Central and Southwestern Tai to form a subgroup, of which Northern Tai is a sister.
In a 2009 Ph.D. dissertation, Pittayawat Pittayaporn classifies the Tai languages based on clusters of shared innovations (which, individually, may be associated with more than one branch) (Pittayaporn 2009:298). In Pittayaporn's classification system, the Zhuang dialects of Chóngzuǒ (崇左) in Guangxi have the most internal diversity. Only the Southwestern Tai branch remains unchanged from Fang-Kuei Li's 1977 classification system, and several of the Southern Zhuang languages of Ethnologue are shown to be paraphyletic. The classification is as follows, along with the names of the Zhuang languages found in Ethnologue:
The following phonological shifts occurred in the Q (Southwestern), N (Northern), B (Ningming), and C (Chongzuo) subgroups (Pittayaporn 2009:300-301).
|Proto-Tai||Subgroup Q||Subgroup N||Subgroup B||Subgroup C|
|*ɤj, *ɤw, *ɤɰ||*aj, *aw, *aɰ||*i:, *u:, *ɯ:||*i:, *u:, *ɯ:||-|
|*ɯj, *ɯw||*i:, *u:||*aj, *aw||*i:, *u:||-|
|*we, *wo||*e:, *o:||*i:, *u:||*e:, *o:||*e:, *o:|
|*ɤn, *ɤt, *ɤc||-||*an, *at, *ac||-||-|
Furthermore, the following shifts occurred at various nodes leading up to node Q.
- E: *p.t- > *p.r-; *ɯm > *ɤm
- G: *k.r- > *qr-
- K: *e:, *o: > *ɛ:, *ɔ:
- O: *ɤn > *on
- Q: *kr- > *ʰr-
Below is comparative table of Tai languages.
|English||Proto-Thai||Siamese||Lao||Lanna||Shan||Tai Lü||Standard Zhuang|
|fire||*vai/aɯ||/fāj/||/fáj/||/fāj/||/pʰáj/ or /fáj/||/fâj/||/fei˧˩/|
|heart||*čai/aɯ||/hǔa tɕāj/||/hǔa tɕàj/||/hǔa tɕǎj/||/hǒ tsǎɰ/||/hó tɕáj/||/sim/|
Many Southwestern Tai languages are written using Brāhmī-derived alphabets. Zhuang languages are traditionally written with Chinese characters called Sawndip, and now officially written with a romanized alphabet, though the traditional writing system is still in use to this day.
- Thai alphabet 
- Lao alphabet 
- Shan alphabet 
- Ahom alphabet 
- Tai Dam alphabet 
- Tai Le alphabet 
- New Tai Lue alphabet 
- Tai Tham alphabet 
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tai". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Diller, 2008. The Tai–Kadai Languages.
- Diller (2008)
- A1 designates a tone.
- Edmondson, Jerold A. The power of language over the past: Tai settlement and Tai linguistics in southern China and northern Vietnam. Studies in Southeast Asian languages and linguistics, Jimmy G. Harris, Somsonge Burusphat and James E. Harris, ed. Bangkok, Thailand: Ek Phim Thai Co. Ltd. http://ling.uta.edu/~jerry/pol.pdf (see page 15)
- Haudricourt, André-Georges. 1956. De la restitution des initiales dans les langues monosyllabiques : le problème du thai commun. Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris 52. 307–322.
- Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. 2009. The Phonology of Proto-Tai. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Cornell University.
- Unless indicated otherwise, all phonological shifts occurred at the primary level (node A).
- Unless indicated otherwise, all phonological shifts occurred at the primary level (node D).
- Also, the *ɯ:k > *u:k shift occurred at node A.
- Innovation at node N
- For node B, the affected Proto-Tai syllable was *we:, *wo:.
- For node C, the affected Proto-Tai syllable was *we:, *wo:.
- Innovation at node J
- Thai Lexicography Resources
- Brown, J. Marvin. From Ancient Thai to Modern Dialects. Bangkok: Social Science Association Press of Thailand, 1965.
- Chamberlain, James R. A New Look at the Classification of the Tai Languages. [s.l: s.n, 1972.
- Conference on Tai Phonetics and Phonology, Jimmy G. Harris, and Richard B. Noss. Tai Phonetics and Phonology. [Bangkok: Central Institute of English Language, Office of State Universities, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, 1972.
- Diffloth, Gérard. An Appraisal of Benedict's Views on Austroasiatic and Austro-Thai Relations. Kyoto: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 1976.
- Đoàn, Thiện Thuật. Tay-Nung Language in the North Vietnam. [Tokyo?]: Instttute [sic] for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 1996.
- Gedney, William J. On the Thai Evidence for Austro-Thai. [S.l: s.n, 1976.
- Gedney, William J., and Robert J. Bickner. Selected Papers on Comparative Tai Studies. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 29. Ann Arbor, Mich., USA: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1989. ISBN 0-89148-037-4
- Gedney, William J., Carol J. Compton, and John F. Hartmann. Papers on Tai Languages, Linguistics, and Literatures: In Honor of William J. Gedney on His 77th Birthday. Monograph series on Southeast Asia. [De Kalb]: Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1992. ISBN 1-877979-16-3
- Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. (1995). William J. Gedney's central Tai dialects: glossaries, texts, and translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 43. Ann Arbor, Mich: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan ISBN 0-89148-075-7
- Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. William J. Gedney's the Yay Language: Glossary, Texts, and Translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 38. Ann Arbor, Mich: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1991. ISBN 0-89148-066-8
- Gedney, William J., and Thomas J. Hudak. William J. Gedney's Southwestern Tai Dialects: Glossaries, Texts and Translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 42. [Ann Arbor, Mich.]: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1994. ISBN 0-89148-074-9
- Hudak, Thomas John. William J. Gedney's The Tai Dialect of Lungming: Glossary, Texts, and Translations. Michigan papers on South and Southeast Asia, no. 39. [Ann Arbor]: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1991. ISBN 0-89148-067-6
- Li, Fang-kuei. 1977. Handbook of Comparative Tai. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawai’i Press.
- Li, Fang-kuei. The Tai Dialect of Lungchow; Texts, Translations, and Glossary. Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1940.
- Østmoe, Arne. A Germanic-Tai Linguistic Puzzle. Sino-Platonic papers, no. 64. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Dept. of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 1995.
- Sathāban Sūn Phāsā Qangkrit. Bibliography of Tai Language Studies. [Bangkok]: Indigenous Languages of Thailand Research Project, Central Institute of English Language, Office of State Universities, 1977.
- Shorto, H. L. Bibliographies of Mon–Khmer and Tai Linguistics. London oriental bibliographies, v. 2. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
- Tingsabadh, Kalaya and Arthur S. Abramson. Essays in Tai Linguistics. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Press, 2001. ISBN 974-347-222-3
- SEAlang Library
- Comparative Tai–Kadai Swadesh vocabulary lists (from Wiktionary's Swadesh-list appendix)
- ABVD: Proto-Tai word list
- ABVD: Proto-Southwestern Tai word list