Talk:Sino-Tibetan languages

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Agglutinative vs analytic[edit]

This article says Sino-Tibetan languages tend to be agglutinative languages, and that page says this is opposite to analytic languages, and that page in turn says Mandarin Chinese is the best example of analytic. I am very confused. --Kaihsu Tai 09:53, 10 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I think there was a mistake; now I am changing agglutinative to analytic. --Kaihsu Tai 09:57, 10 Oct 2003 (UTC)
I think there was mistake too. Mandarin Chinese is a typical analytic language, while Japanese is a typical agglutinative language, but the family of Japanese is not clear yet. --ILovEJPPitoC 11:10, 10 Oct 2003 (UTC)
While the Chinese languages are often isolating (analytic), many Tibeto-Burman languages, such as Meithei, are polysynthetic. It is just a super large family. You may not be able to generalize on this aspect. — ishwar  (SPEAK) 18:59, 2005 Apr 8 (UTC)
Mandarin and Cantonese are shown to be analytic languages, and may some other TB languages. However, it has been shown that Old Chinese has suffixation, prefixation and infixation to derive verbs from nouns, and vice versa. Some TB languages, I believe, have this feature too. H-Man (talk) 13:43, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

hypothetical ?[edit]

How can language families be "hypothetical" or "proposed". They either exist or they don't. It doesn't look like they dont exist now and will exist tomorrow. --Jiang 04:45, 6 Apr 2004 (UTC)


Language families can be hypothetical or proposed in the sense that somebody proposes that such and such languages are related and not everybody agrees. A case in point would be the Hopi-Tibetan mirror which claims that the Tibetan word for "sun" is the Hopi word for "moon" and the Tibetan word for "love" is the Hopi word for "hate" (and incredibly enough, the visa versa cases also) thus proving the two languages must somehow be related. See my comments on Talk:Hopi where I do my part to question the this proposed relationship (mainly by asking "show me the money", or in this case "show me the words"). On a more serious note, linguists sometimes disagree as to the membership of various language families. As ILovEJPPitoC points out above, the classification of Japanese is not certain -- is it an Altaic language or a language isolate?
That said, some core language families are recognized by virtually all linguists. Nobody questions the existence of a Indo-European language family, for example, or the Chinese language family, as the evidence is just too strong. The question at hand is — do the vast majority of linguists agree the Sino-Tibetan language family makes sense? As far as I know I think so — it's certainly easy to find plenty of unbiased references that make use of this classification (SIL, etc) — but maybe somebody can dig up credible sources that disagree. In the meantime I'd vote for dropping the proposed adjective. technopilgrim 23:50, 7 Apr 2004 (UTC)
I remember reading in abook on Tibet that the "sino-tibetan language group" was a politically motivated - to contribute in justifying Chinese domination of Tibet. I don't have any sources on that, but considering the impact of ideology on intellectual life in XXth century china, and possibly the blindness of a lot of occidental academia to this, it seems believable. On the other hand, it also seems entirely believeable that some tibetans or pro-tibetan activists just made that up. I'll have to do a bit of research on this.
Everyone agrees there are a large number of cognate words between the two languages. The question is how this happened. Did the two languages share a common root or is this the result of cross-language borrowing? According to the comparative method of linguist study, questions of this type are resolved by looking at the words used to name the most quotidian objects ("sun", "water", "finger", "dog", "three", "sleep", "son", etc.). Per this theory, these basic words are more resistant to foreign language borrowing than words used for more exotic and abstract concepts. If linguists find a strong correspondence in these simple words, then two languages are assumed to share a common heritage language. This is the case with Tibetan and Chinese. (Which isn't to say that the People's Republic of China is above using this finding for sinister purposes.) technopilgrim 21:42, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Yes, the connection of Chinese languages to Tibeto-Burman languages is not uncontroversial. — ishwar  (SPEAK) 19:03, 2005 Apr 8 (UTC)
Saying that the Sino-Tibetan laanguage family is "Chinese propaganda" is absolutely absurd. Thousands of sino-Tibetan root words have been constructed. Their is a 99.9% chance that these languages are related. [anon.]
Actually, the special place of Chinese within Sino-Tibetan (two branches, Chinese vs. all of Tibeto-Burman) may also be politically motivated: the idea that big, important languages should have important placement withing the classification. You see this over and over: Semitic within "Hamo-Semitic" (two branches, Semitic vs everything else), the special prominence given to Bantu, to Polynesian within Malayo-Polynesian, etc, even though these are (cladistically) minor sub-sub-branches of their families. Indeed, just as Semitic, Bantu, and Polynesian were eventually "demoted", despite vociferous opposition from specialists of those languages, several recent classifications have concluded that the Chinese languages form just another sub-branch of Tibeto-Burman, no more important linguistically than the Tibetan, Newari, or Kiranti languages. Rather like English within Indo-European: a large number of speakers doesn't give it a "privileged" place within the classification. Such ideas are not popular among Chinese linguists, however; how much of the opposition is justified by good linguistics and how much is due to pride I don't know. — kwami 04:22, 9 Apr 2005 (UTC)
So, in other words, you're stating that you dispute the Anglo-Indic language family? What cheek! --Ryanaxp 04:10, Jun 12, 2005 (UTC)
This argument for Sino-Bodic sounds plausible, but that's not enough. I have added a link to Matisoff's (2003) opus magnum, and I have read the pdf: Tibeto-Burman does have innovations that Sinitic lacks.
After reading that book, incidentally, I am forced to consider doubts about the existence of Sino-Tibetan ridiculous. That's why I removed the "putative" in the first sentence. Someone with more spare time should add things like cognate lists… the article is currently very short. David Marjanović 00:17, 28 May 2007 (UTC)

actually the tibetan and burmese languages had alot of borrowings and cognates with indian language due to indian influence, so the similarities between chinese tibetan and burmese show a common ancestor in language —Preceding unsigned comment added by 141.155.146.29 (talk) 02:01, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Jiang, it's hypothetical because there is substantiated evidence to prove a plausible connection between various languages and language groups, but there is not enough evidence to completely say that those languages are directly related with attested connections and also a display of rules and a reconstructed proto-language. For all it matters, IE is quite hypothetical. It's a hypothesis which can be refuted. But it has been agreed by many to be the best model to understand European and the Subcontinental Indian languages by far. H-Man (talk) 13:41, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Which is why Indo-European is best called a theory, like evolution (see Evolution as fact and theory), not a hypothesis. Theories are often described as models, hypotheses are much more limited in scope, and not thoroughly tested yet. In science, things are generally not 100% certain, but more like 99.99999...%. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:03, 14 October 2014 (UTC)

A new stub category has been created[edit]

A new stub category has been created specifically for Sino-Tibetan languages: {{st-lang-stub}} . Use {{st-lang-stub}} rather than {{stub}} or {{lang-stub}} to label stubs on Sino-Tibetan languages as such.

Stub categorizing is a convenient way to keep track of Sino-Tibetan-related stubs and additionally helps in keeping the category of language stubs usable. Whoever feels like it, is invited to browse Category:Language stubs to sift out any Sino-Tibetan language stubs... Thanks!

For discussion see: WP:WSS/Stub types#Language and literature and WP:WSS/Criteria#Split of lang-stub. — mark 23:20, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)

number of speakers[edit]

it seems that sino-tibetan langauges have the largest number of speakers and not the indo-european languages, as is said in the entry "Sino-Tibetan languages".

here's a list from SIL on the most commonly spoken languages in the world: http://www2.ignatius.edu/faculty/turner/languages.htm -- while Mandarin holds the #1 slot it is the only Sino-Tibetan language in the top 11. Various Indo-European languages hold all the other slots except for Arabic (#6) and Japanese (#9). If you add up the numbers you can see that Indo-European language speakers outnumber Sino-Tibetan speakers by a fair margin. technopilgrim 18:53, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)
It's not just that there are no other ST languages in the top-ten list. The closest thing there is to another major ST language in terms of population is Burmese, listed variously listed with 22-32 million, which is a middling language by IE standards. The 70 languages called 'Tibetan' total somewhere around 5 million, and I don't believe there is a single other ST language with more than a million speakers. As far as second-language speakers, only Chinese and Burmese are used to a significant extent. kwami 21:41, 2005 Jun 17 (UTC)

Maha-kiranti[edit]

Since the publication of his Handbook, van Driem has rethought the validity of Mahakiranti. I beleive he discusses this both in his essay in the proceedings of the 9th Himalayan Language Symposium (published by de Gruyter last year, Anju Saxena Ed.) and in the proceedings of the fifth published in Nepal.

Tibetan Citations[edit]

All of the Tibetan citations in the "Common Roots" section are wrong for Written Tibetan. The numbers are gcig, gnyis, gsum, bzhi, lnga, drug, bdun, bgryad, dgu, bcu.

Common Sino-Tibetan Roots[edit]

This list is far from helpful for determining genetic relationship. By this same list, mostly consisting of numbers, one could presume that Japanese, Korean, and several other unrelated (or relationship undeterminable) languages are genetically related to Chinese. For a better list please see the list on the page for Germanic Languages, it is very thorough.

the similarities between japanese to chinese, and korean to chinese, are only due to borrowing and language contact, which did NOT happen between tibetans and chinese, or burmese and chinese, due to the fact that they were more influenced by india, proving that this list is correct and you are not...... tibetan and chinese trace back to a common origin —Preceding unsigned comment added by 141.155.146.29 (talk) 01:57, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

the writing system of Tibetan is totally different from Chinese, but the sound of numbers from 1-10 is almost the same between the two languages. Analytical feature is also common among the language familiy. Chinese madarin "was" more agglutinative in the past, remember the chinese language had developed for thousands of year and the modern form of the language is very much different than the language spoken in the Tang dynasty. in general, Sino-Tibetan are more analytical, although Tibetan and Burma language sometimes show some agglutinative suffix, that doesn't change the nature of the language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 123.113.191.118 (talk) 15:02, 31 December 2010 (UTC)

"the writing system of Tibetan is totally different from Chinese, but the sound of numbers from 1-10 is almost the same between the two languages.": That's because the Tibetan language borrowed from the Chinese language since ancient times! They are not related languages! Sino-Tibetan doesn't even make sense as ONE language family [Sino- is from Latin via Arabic, but the Greek root should be used, it makes better sense, since Latin is now a "dead language"!], since none of the words are related. When they sound the same, that's due to borrowing from various Chinese dialects just like what the Japanese did. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 108.41.65.248 (talkcontribs) 14:47, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Inconsistency[edit]

Contradictory statements have been made about membership of Sino-Tibetan. This applies to Thai.
Childish imitations of the discovery of the Indo-European group began to appear after about 1850.
Also, contradictory statements have been made about Chinese
and its membership of the alleged group.
Phrases like "not related" and "controversial" appear in the main article. They refer to all four branches in the alleged Sino-Tibetan group.
Jespersen, in the 1920's, said Thai was "certainly" in the group.

Population Genetics Perspective[edit]

Recent studies on the genetics of East Asian populations have suggested that the hypothesis of a Sino-Tibetan language family has a good chance of being correct. All populations that speak a language classified as Sino-Tibetan display high frequencies of Y-chromosomes belonging to Haplogroup O3-M122 and especially its subclade, O3a5-M134. Haplogroup O3-M122 is also typical of many populations that speak Hmong-Mien languages, Austronesian languages, or Tai-Kadai languages, which suggests that all these language families might ultimately be related. Haplogroup O1a-M119 is also rather common among people who speak an Austronesian or a Tai-Kadai language, however, so it is possible that the connection between Austronesian/Tai-Kadai and Sino-Tibetan might be more ancient than the connection between Sino-Tibetan and Hmong-Mien.

Do you have any sources I can read. It seems unlikely that Austronesian might be related to Chinese or Hmong, giving that it have a completely different structures. There are however some who think Tai and Austronesian are related, with basic words like mata and ta for eye. It might just be one big spectrum, because eye in Austroasiatic is similar to Austronesian, muoi, met, pamet. CanCanDuo 20:50, 6 April 2007 (UTC)
The Sino-Tibetian breakup is estimated at 6 500 years, while haplogroup O3-M122 is estimated at 14 000 years at least. So, no wonder Sino-Tibetian is much more interrelated than a hypothetical ST-AN link. СЛУЖБА (talk) 07:50, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
Don't confuse genes and languages. They don't always spread in the same way. David Marjanović 23:15, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

nobody said they spread the same wat, he only said the genes SUPPORT the language theory, and somewhrer on wikipedia it says chinese and tibetans came from same origin

If they don't spread the same way, they can't SUPPORT (or not support) it.85.241.124.173 (talk) 02:11, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

I agree that genes and languages do not "spread the same way" - examples to note include language borrowing by the Native Americans when the Spanish came to the New World, or when the Germanic Normans came to France. Different contacts by peoples can bring on the fact that one group may borrow a language. But even if they do borrow a language, there is a visible substratum in the language varieties these people have spoken.
For all it matters, I think that at this point in time, the Sino-Tibetan theory and similar theories hold more supportable evidence than others. I saw an entry above saying that the numbers may have been borrowed in Tibetan? I disagree; you can find similar sounding numbers all the way into West Burma and Eastern India. I don't see how Proto-Chinese can diffuse in a way that would influence borrowing on a large geographical scale. Especially when the Himalayan mountains create a geographical barrier: contact between the both sides may be limited. Now if all of these people live in the plains, where travel is easy, sure I would assume that there would have been a lot of pre-historical contact going on between the two groups. Words in some contexts are also the same, I will put up examples from Sagart later, and thus I don't believe that they can be borrowings.
True, from what we see today, Tibetan, Burmese and Chinese (which under this proposal, puts them all in one giant umbrella) do not have any visible connections. In fact many demonstratives and grammatical particles are widely different, but it could be independent variation. Talk about the variation within the Chinese languages - they don't necessarily use the same words for even the pronouns. For all it matters, even if Celtic and Lithuanian are under the same category (IE), the speakers cannot understand each other, and the linguistic development throughout history had diverged drastically. Supported by the genetic markings, the ST proposal stands out as very likely. It does not qualify that ST is completely accurate, but based on what we have so far, and the gene evidence, it is the best theory to understanding the supposed-daughter languages today. If people so choose to say that Tibetan and Chinese are not within the same category, I would like to see some substantiated evidence to refute the hypothesis. H-Man (talk) 13:36, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Comparative[edit]

I know the articles says comparative method is hard for this language family; however, can we at least get a table up showing similarities of confirmed languages? --Voidvector (talk) 09:37, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

merged[edit]

Since there is no such thing as a "Sino-Tibetan people", I moved that article here. kwami (talk) 00:50, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

Language template[edit]

There are way too much hypothetical guesses in the template and not enough references to support such break-down of lists. The mainstream view of Sino-Tibetan language is definitely not listed as such, see Encyclopædia Britannica [1] and Ethnologue [2].--TheLeopard (talk) 21:29, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. kwami (talk) 22:01, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Agreed with me? Then why did you list these names in such [hypothetical] fashion? Did you not click on the Ethnologue classifications [3]? Sino-Tibetan languages consist of Chinese and Tibeto-Burman. Chinese is directly classified under Sino-Tibetan and Bai language is classified under Tibeto-Burman, not "Sinitic".--TheLeopard (talk) 22:07, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Yes, agreed. After you pointed it out, I saw how silly it was to have the same breakdown both here and on TB. I just needed s.o. to point out the obvious. BTW, you shouldn't rely on Ethnologue. It isn't a reliable source. (For instance, check out their "Bodish".[4] Absolutely ridiculous.) But Bai is widely thought to be a Sinitic language, and Chinese has been argued to be a TB language—just read the article. kwami (talk) 22:40, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Those are your personal assumptions bud, whether you think Ethnologue is realiable. You need to show legitimate sources to prove otherwise. You need to present reputable sources to show that "Sinitic Language" is indeed a mainstream designation of this language family [Chinese], and the classification of Sino-Tibetan languages is classified as Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman as oppose to Chinese and Tibeto-Burman. Wikipedia does not tolerate original research, and minor point of view should not presented like this.--TheLeopard (talk) 22:57, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
No, "buddy", Sinitic is common knowledge to anyone who knows anything about Sino-Tibetan, and the unreliability of Ethnologue is common knowledge to all of us here who work with language classification articles, which is why it's only used as a last resort. Wikipedia should not be reduced to your level of ignorance. I've already told you twice that I will add sources, and I will. I would appreciate the courtesy of a reasonable amount of time to do so—I've put a word search in one source, and haven't even had time to go back and check it yet. kwami (talk) 23:32, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
You are the one who has been saying Ethnologue is unreliable, that is your opinion and is fine. However considering Ethnologue is among the most commonly known and used source for linguistics, it holds considerable weight.--TheLeopard (talk) 00:36, 5 February 2009 (UTC)
No, it does not. It is only used as a one-stop convenience because it covers all of the world's languages. If you don't believe me, ask other Wikipedia editors who work on language classification. kwami (talk) 00:57, 5 February 2009 (UTC)
I must concur. Ethnologue is not entirely reliable. That's not to say it's totally wrong either but when there's a conflict between something Ethnologue says and what an expert of language (family/classification) X says, the expert is probably more likely right then Ethnologue. You just have to do a cursory survey of their language names to see that they get things spectacularly wrong sometimes and - even worse - are apparently unwilling to consider correcting errors when someone with a better understanding of a topic approaches them. Let's face it, of there was a conflict between the X's Guide to All of Africa stating fact Z about Kinshasa and the Lonely Planet Guide to Kinshasa and Central Congo saying otherwise, who would you believe? Akerbeltz (talk) 10:24, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Just to concur: Ethnologue is NOT generally considered reliable by linguists. It is just another information repository, and that information is not put there by experts, nor even neutral robots; it's selectively collected by SIL, which neither follows academic standards nor has scientific objectives or guidelines. That said, of course not even Ethnologue can get everything wrong; but it would be A Good Thing if Wikipedia guidelines specifically mentioned that whenever it's only-Ethnologue vs. Anything-Else, Anything-Else should prevail. Simply put, Ethnologue is not a primary source and is full of OR; that makes it worse than Wikipedia itself as a source, and of course Wikipedia can't be a source, so much less Ethnologue.85.241.124.173 (talk) 02:20, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

Gallery[edit]

Does anyone else agree that the gallery featuring pictures of people of the different ethnic groups is unnecessary? This article is about the languages they speak, not the people themselves, and the pictures don't seem too relevant. The article even mentions that Sino-Tibetan is only a linguistic construct anyway. 66.71.70.66 (talk) 13:27, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

The gallery was merged from 'Sino-Tibetan peoples', since that article had no meaning apart from a reification of the language family. But I didn't want to just discard it. You can also argue that it is a very narrow conception of linguistics that considers only languages, without the people that speak them, since of course languages do not exist without people. Linguistics is in its essence a sub-discipline of anthropology. kwami (talk) 00:11, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
So should 'Indo-European Peoples' include photographs from almost everyone in the planet? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 85.241.124.173 (talk) 02:22, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

One new Tibeto-Burman language discovered[edit]

Koro : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11479563 Cdrk (talk) 19:11, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

It's a "distant sister" to Hruso, but Hruso is unclassified within TB.
Ah, shows similarities to Tani. — kwami (talk) 20:24, 5 October 2010 (UTC)
I looked in these articles and don't see where either Tani or Hruso is mentioned. --Taivo (talk) 21:23, 5 October 2010 (UTC)
Aka is a synonym for Hruso. Schmid at AP paraphrased the team as saying "While Koro differs from Aka, it does share some things with another language, Tani, which is spoken farther to the east." Certainly not enough to say it's a new branch of TB.
Since I like to keep every language article linked from some higher level of classification, so that none of them are orphaned, I put a mention in at Tani languages. — kwami (talk) 22:40, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

Flux[edit]

We are now told that the internal classification of the Sino-Tibetan languages is "in flux". —Preceding unsigned comment added by 94.30.71.244 (talk) 13:51, 7 May 2011 (UTC)

The vague phrase "at least" is used about membership. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 94.30.71.244 (talk) 13:56, 7 May 2011 (UTC)

Family tree diagram[edit]

The Sino-Tibetan language family, largely following Thurgood and La Polla (2003).[Image moved here as suspect in its fidelity to the source]

The diagram File:SinoTibetanTree.svg seems not to match the named source, and its contents are dubious.

The diagram is described as "largely following" or "primarily based on" The Sino-Tibetan languages, by Graham Thurgood and Randy J. LaPolla (2003), ISBN 0700711295. The first chapter of that book contains an outline classification of ST languages by Thurgood, but it seems very different from this tree. For example, Thurgood subdivides Chinese as Northern (Mandarin), Central (Wu, Xiang, Gan and Hakka) and Southern (Yue and Min), while this diagram has a very odd structure, e.g. claiming that only Yue and Mandarin are descended from Middle Chinese, that there is a Wu-Min subgroup, that Gan is some sort of mixture of Wu and Xiang, and so on. The Tibeto-Burman subgrouping also differs from Thurgood's (Lolo-Burmese, Bodic, Sal, Kuki-Chin-Naga, Rung and Karenic), and seems to contain a number of high-level nodes of uncertain provenance. Kanguole 09:34, 10 May 2011 (UTC)

Yeah, its not my area of expertise, but the internal classification of sinitic seemed odd. I'm taking your description of the source on good faith and putting the image here and seeing if I can get any relevant material from interlibrary loan. μηδείς (talk) 19:35, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
I read the Thurgood and La Polla's Sino-Tibetan Languages book, and I didn't find any information that say Yue Chinese and Mandarin are the only languages descended from Middle Chinese. Sonic99 (talk) 03:41, 8 November 2012 (UTC)

Well, guess what? Then put that in the caption instead of removing the image or make your own image. Something's better than nothing and this is Wikipedia. The world lets you do your scholarship so that you can make it accessible for all academics, not just Sino-Tibetan linguists and not just historical linguists. Everyone outside of that bubble relies on you to do what you can to make your work available to them. ... Which includes not removing images from Wikipedia which are at least in the general ballpark of reality. Unbelievably ridiculous the kind of quality control for historical linguistics and ancient languages on Wikipedia. Wikipedia needs to work on being more welcoming to competent people instead of the kind of people who scare them out and end up running things. Compare articles from 2010 to today and see the effects of how things are run on Wikipedia. It's not a movie and it's not television, it's knowledge, and competent people are rare and should be treated with welcome, or they're just going to leave.

Oliverhaart (talk) 12:04, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

The "Naic Languages" article contains a good image that covers a lot of Sino-Tibetan. This old flawed one and this Naic one (from some professors in 2011) should be added this article, if anyone in Wikipedia still cares for having Wikipedia be a useful resource for scholars and non-scholars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naic_languages

Oliverhaart (talk) 12:10, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Given that there seems to be currently considerable dispute about the family structure of Sino-Tibetan, I disagree that putting up an unverifiable or erroneous tree would be better than nothing.
Perhaps a differently organized chart could cover mostly the same functions though. We have at Afro-Asiatic languages an interesting diagram demonstrating differing subgrouping proposals, and I wonder if a similar one could be assembled for Sino-Tibetan. Alternately, if the point would be to list individual ST languages and generally accepted subgroups, that might be doable too.
Also, I don't think I follow why you feel unwelcome (or feel that competent people in general are unwelcome)? Anyone working based on reliable sources is certainly welcome to contribute. --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 15:52, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Glottolog link[edit]

Why should a link to the Glottolog page entitled "Sino-Tibetan"[5] be labelled as the "Sino-Tibetan / Tibeto-Burman entry"? Kanguole 11:01, 25 March 2014 (UTC)

It's not about the title, which is trivial, but about the concept. We have separate ST and TB articles, where ST = Chinese + TB. Glottolog does not. You were correct that the Glottolog ST link does not belong in our TB box, but neither does it fit here. It's a conflation of our ST and TB, and labeling it as such is an indication of this to our readers. — kwami (talk) 20:01, 25 March 2014 (UTC)
The Glottolog "Sino-Tibetan" entry certainly does fit here: they are fairly agnostic about subgrouping, but the family circumscribed there is the same one that is the subject of this article. Presumably that's why they call it "Sino-Tibetan". They have no entry on "Tibeto-Burman" / the non-Sinitic members of ST, apparently because they do not consider that a valid node. Kanguole 00:13, 26 March 2014 (UTC)
Exactly my point.
The ST in this article is like Indo-Hittite, while the one at Glot is like Indo-Eurpean. Same scope, but not really the same thing. — kwami (talk) 08:21, 26 March 2014 (UTC)
The topic of this article is the widely accepted language family, not a particular view of its subgrouping. A range of proposals for subgroups within that family are discussed, of which the 2-way Chinese/TB split is only one. Kanguole 09:21, 26 March 2014 (UTC)
Removed the definitive branching to fit your edit. — kwami (talk) 07:41, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

Blacklisted Links Found on the Main Page[edit]

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Genetic Studies[edit]

Why is the genetic studies being rejected? I don't see anything wrong with it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ShanghaiWu (talkcontribs) 07:06, 29 April 2014‎ (UTC)

The original addition was a verbatim copy from the source. Later versions still have copied parts, and those phrases that have been changed often also change the meaning of the original. But a more serious question is what is there in this article that is useful for a coverage of Sino-Tibetan? They've investigated the distribution of haplogroup O3-M117, which is centred on the Qiang people and western Sichuan, and leap from there to a speculative hypothesis about ST origins. They concede that O3 lineages provide only a partial picture (p97) and that O3-M117 may represent only part of the ST population (p96). At best this should be attributed as the opinion of those authors rather than presented as a statement for fact. But I don't think it's appropriate to use the primary literature here, per WP:PRIMARY – we should wait for a secondary source to do the synthesis and interpretation for us. Kanguole 08:05, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

But how do you know what is fact or opinion when it comes to genetic. Many genetic and DNA analysis come from scholars opinion. That's what I want to know first. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ShanghaiWu (talkcontribs) 08:15, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

We are not in a position to evaluate the primary genetic literature. That is why we should wait for a secondary source to do it for us. This explained at WP:PRIMARY. WP:SUBSTANTIATE explains the need to attribute opinions rather than presenting them as fact. Kanguole 08:40, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

So if I write it down in the for of opinion,does that mean it can be included in wiki page? — Preceding unsigned comment added by ShanghaiWu (talkcontribs) 08:44, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

That is only one of the problems listed above. Kanguole 08:54, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Ergative[edit]

Do any authors make a connection between ergative marking in some TB languages and Cikoski's "ergative verbs" in Classical Chinese? If not, we shouldn't juxtapose them as if they were somehow related. Kanguole 10:29, 15 July 2014 (UTC)

Well, I didn't mean that they are related. It's just that that paragraph dealt with ergativity, so I put them together. I'll leave it as what it is for a couple of days, and I'm intending to put the Old Chinese ergative verbs back and trying to reorganize that paragraph if nobody does it. Qrfqr (talk) 20:18, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
By placing that statement there, you imply that it is somehow relevant. But there is no reason to believe that it is. Kanguole 23:45, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Whatever. I can not prevent people from inventing what has not been written. Qrfqr (talk) 01:23, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
The point is that no-one says this is relevant to typology of Sino-Tibetan languages. Kanguole 14:26, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
Are you saying that (1) no one has said that the typology of Old Chinese is relevant to the typology of Sino-Tibetan languages, or are you saying that (2) no one has said that the typology of Old Chinese is relevant to the typology of Tibeto-Burman languages genealogically, or are you saying that (3) no one has said that the typology of Old Chinese is relevant to the typology of the proto-Sino-Tibetan language? If you meant (1), as one of Sino-Tibetan languages, of course it is relevant. If you meant (2), then whether one has said it or not does not matter, since the paragraph deals with the typology of morphosyntactic alignment, and by mentioning the morphosyntactic alignments of Old Chinese and Tibeto-Burman languages in a paragraph of which the focus is morphosyntactic alignment, it is very strange to jump to the conclusion that the typology of Old Chinese is relevant to the typology of Tibeto-Burman languages genealogically, just like by reading a paragraph introducing ergative languages, it would be very strange to jump to the conclusion that the ergativity of Basque and the ergativity of Hindi is genealogically related, unless it is explicitly stated. If you meant (3), remember that the article is about Sino-Tibetan languages, not the proto-Sino-Tibetan language, and the readers should be aware of it and be careful not to over-interpret. Qrfqr (talk) 17:27, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
I'm saying that there's no indication that Cikoski's labelling a class of Classical Chinese verbs as "ergative verbs" is relevant to the typology of Sino-Tibetan languages. After all, similar verbs occur in many nominative-accusative languages, including Modern Chinese and English. We don't just include something because it's a feature of a Sino-Tibetan language – there are hundreds of them. Kanguole 00:08, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
You're mixing up two concepts at the same time: relatedness and notability. (1) Of course the typology of any kind of Old Chinese is related to the typology of that kind of Sino-Tibetan languages, since Old Chinese is a member of Sino-Tibetan languages. A feature any kind of penguins is of course related to a feature of that kind of birds, be it an example or a counterexample. (2) The notability of the occurrence of ergativity in Sino-Tibetan languages: it has being pointed out at least in LaPolla's article. It's just that LaPolla's article was about the TB part. Don't forget that there's no consensus about whether Sinitic and TB are the two first level subdivisions. In the end, the notability of the occurrence of ergativity in TB could be nothing more than "the notability of the occurrence of ergativity in ST minus the Chinese languages", with the exclusion being caused by the scope of that study and having not much significance from the view of the whole ST languages. Qrfqr (talk) 01:19, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
By the way, although English also has such ergative verbs, the constructions such "A敗", "B敗A" have been study topics for a long time. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that ergative verbs are more notable for Chinese among its other "hundreds of" features. Qrfqr (talk) 01:31, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
This class of "ergative verbs" is a quite different thing from ergative typology. That something is a feature of one of the hundreds of Sino-Tibetan languages is not a sufficient reason to include it in a section on the typology of Sino-Tibetan languages; it needs to be relevant. Kanguole 23:47, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, you're right in the first point. Thank you for pointing it out. However, I must say that I don't agree with the second point: it's mixing up relatedness with notability. My bad (as for the first point). Qrfqr (talk) 04:57, 24 July 2014 (UTC)
I agree that Cikoski's analysis of Classical Chinese verbs is notable – it's been discussed by several authors. It just doesn't seem to be relevant here – perhaps Classical Chinese grammar would be the right place. Kanguole 23:52, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

*ə vs *a[edit]

Gong Hwang-Cherng's discovery, the common Tibeto-Burman merger of Proto-Sino-Tibetan *ə with *a, where Old Chinese still preserves the vowel distinction, receives a short mention both in this article (under "Study of literary languages") and in Old Chinese#Vocabulary (under "Sino-Tibetan"), but in light of the fact that it is such a crucial argument, it should really be emphasised more here, because it's easy to miss. In fact, I had missed it all the time – until right now. (I will assume here that researchers have some kind of argument that the distinction cannot have arisen secondarily from a proto-phoneme *a.) When you're not told any details, it's reasonable to be sceptical about the validity (coherence) of the Tibeto-Burman subbranch, after all. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 17:55, 11 October 2014 (UTC)

Which languages are compared for this suggested common sound change? If only the most 'important' ones, then this is no evidence for a primary split of Sinitic vs. the rest, but simply of that the other compared languages are/may be more closely related to each other than to Sinitic. It does not mean that the "minor" Sino-Tibetan languages should also be grouped with the non-Sinitic languages used in the comparison under a "Tibeto-Burman" clade. Take Hruso, Miju, Puroik, Digaro, Kho-Bwa, Siangic, and Miji, these have all long been assumed to be Sino-Tibetan (well, even Tibeto-Burman, because of an assumed primary split of Sinitic), but may turn out not to be Sino-Tibetan at all! If Sinitic is so clearly related to Tibetan and Burmese, and a great many "minor" languages are not when actually looked at, how tenable would this make "Tibeto-Burman"? --JorisvS (talk) 09:28, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
Quite true. The usual procedure for generating a language classification has been something like this:
  1. Expert A examines geographically nearby or typologically similar languages 1-7 (e.g. Burmese, Tibetan & co.) and determines that they are related.
  2. Expert B examines language 1 and geographically or typologically more distant cluster of languages 8-11 (e.g. Sinitic), determines that they are related, and declares that "in his opinion" the relationship is "distant". In best case scenario, he might also have determined that also the relationship of 1 and 2 is indeed not "distant".
  3. Since no one's asserted that the relationship between 1 and 3-7 might be distant, everyone now believes that 1-7 is a closely related group while group 8-11 is an outgroup (although no one at all has looked at if languages 3-7 might even share all sorts of features with 8-11).
The current Tibeto-Burman mess is exacerbated only by that various groups have not even been determined to be related based on rigorous etymological analysis, but on general lexico-typological features ("if its' numerals look like this, it must be TB")… --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 15:10, 12 October 2014 (UTC)
I agree and I have thought of the point brought up by JorisvS myself already, but as a non-Tibeto-Burmanist I will just have to assume good faith in the intelligence and competence of Gong and other experts (like Matisoff), who can be expected to have thought of this exceedingly obvious problem. Is there any classification of Tibeto-Burman in which all the major languages (Gong compared only Tibetan, Burman, Tangut apparently, but that doesn't mean other TB languages have not been examined by others in this respect) are part of a subgroup? Only Benedict (1942), apparently, apart from the classifications that do not treat Sinitic as a primary branch in the first place.
Of course it would also be nice to learn of other putative common Tibeto-Burman innovations. Given that the subclassification of Sino-Tibetan is so frequently debated, there is a surprising dearth of facts and arguments to be found at least on the web.
Matisoff does not directly address the question in his Handbook, though Handel makes an insightful comment in the Appendix A on Old Chinese (p. 561, n. 38), referring to the Chinese/Tibeto-Burman split as a "working hypothesis" that cannot yet be decided until Tibeto-Burman and Old Chinese reconstruction is more developped. However, that would validate van Driem's agnostic "falling leaves" model as strictly speaking most appropriate at this point. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 22:42, 14 October 2014 (UTC)
These a bit of discussion in Handel's survey paper. I don't think anyone has suggested a conditioning factor for a split. The usual responses have been (a) it would need to be demonstrated in more branches than the Tibetan and Burmese considered by Gong, and (b) in the current undeveloped state of ST reconstruction there are several unexplained splits. Jacques also suggests briefly in an enclopedia article that there are traces of *ə in Tangut, but I don't think this appears in a research article. It is surprising that no one seem to have explored Gong's discovery further. Kanguole 16:03, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
So David Marjanović's assertion above that "Tibeto-Burman does have innovations that Sinitic lacks" was entirely wrong?
Well, I suppose that everybody thinks that Sino-Tibetan historical grammar isn't developped enough so it isn't worth following up Gong's lead, or something ... --Florian Blaschke (talk) 05:09, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

"probably not monophyletic"[edit]

This claim, although not strictly cited from literature, does follow from an absense of strong evidence for the unity of Tibeto-Burman. The question if Sinitic brances first, or doesn't, is not a 50:50 race, or even 10:90. It's "Sinitic branches first" versus "Karen brances first" versus "Sino-Bodic branches first" versus "Tani+Siangic+Kiranti branches first" versus all the other 2^39 other ways that the 40 established branches could be divided in two. Bringing up just one particular hypothesis is already a strong allegiance to it (perhaps as strong as is at all warranted). --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 16:12, 18 October 2014 (UTC)

That, plus that the "minor" languages are heavily underresearched and when they are analyzed they often appear rather divergent, is why I've been removing mentions of "Tibeto-Burman" wherever appropriate. I worded it that way thinking about "paraphyletic" and hence going to "not monophyletic". Given the historical prominence of this divide, I think it is reasonable to mention it, despite its being rather untenable. The remarks "a common origin of the non-Sinitic languages has never been demonstrated" and "is rejected by an increasing number of researchers" explain the current state of affairs rather well, I'd say. --JorisvS (talk) 16:35, 18 October 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I find the current wording sufficient. Just a comment on how probability claims on matters of this type work. --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 23:39, 18 October 2014 (UTC)
If we were strict about only including sufficiently demonstrated and thus uncontroversial branches (which we aren't; just think of all the linkages in Austronesian which we treat as if they were valid branches descending from a defined proto-language), our list of branches would be very long, at least like the one in the infobox of Tibeto-Burman languages and more likely along the lines of van Driem's fallen leaves model. But a list of the 40 or so established branches of Sino-Tibetan would be quite informative and good to have; I think it would be a valuable addition to the article. What do you think?
I am not really satisfied with the amount of articles we have about "linkages" in e.g. Austronesian either; or, more specifically, with the way they are indeed treated as "branches" even when they are known not to be. Watch out for a large new topic to come at WP:LING in the near future… --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 10:24, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
For my part, I've long been sceptical of the traditional binary split myself and have sympathised with the view of van Driem and others who suspect that Sinitic is no different from Polynesian or Bantu, but ultimately the same story. It would indeed be a remarkable coincidence if Sinitic were really a primary branch of Sino-Tibetan. It is striking how few major languages are isolates, whether relatively or absolutely. Most belong to some huge or at least fairly sizeable family, some to a small family (like Japanese, Quechua or Aymara), and the only major isolates are Korean (if Jeju doesn't count as an independent language, and if Altaic is either really invalid or at least doesn't include Korean) and ... that's really the only example I can think of, apart from the long-extinct Sumerian and Elamite. That's probably not a coincidence. The less isolated a language is genetically, the greater its potential as a lingua franca.
A striking example is Arabic: It's strongest where other Semitic languages are or used to be spoken; it's also strong in the traditional areas of Berber and Coptic, both relatively similar to Semitic and thus Arabic, as a conservative Semitic language; it has expanded further into the southern part of the Afro-Asiatic region, but is mostly a second language there; but it has not expanded much beyond Afro-Asiatic, where highly dissimilar languages are spoken, and has at best gained a foothold in the form of creolised varities. This gradient suggests that Arabic has always been more likely to be adopted the more similar it is to the local language (while the adoption of Islam notably does not exhibit such a correlation), and other languages show similar patterns. Generally speaking, only the use of extreme force (colonialism or even genocide) spreads languages to areas where the pre-existing languages are radically different (not only genetically, but also typologically).
Even for some apparent counter-examples there may be some explanation, such as Austronesian languages in New Guinea, which (if I am not mistaken) settled in the coastal lowlands, which were thinly settled by Papuans as they were malaria-ridden. And the way the initial spread of Indo-European proceeded, and what the pre-existing languages were like (keep in mind Proto-Indo-European was most likely surrounded by related languages at least in its more immediate neighbourhood, and more remotely or not recognisably related languages farther away may still have been typologically similar), remains unclear. So I think the tendency of languages to spread among their relatives is indeed strong. This is also another way the negative correlation between number of speakers and relative isolatedness can be explained: the more a language is encroached upon by more powerful languages, the more likely it is that its (close) relatives are going to disappear, as it is unlikely that language isolates have always been isolates. Sumerian and Elamite must have had relatives too at some point, and for modern relative isolates such as Albanian or Armenian within Indo-European, there is good reason to think that they have not always been as isolated as they are now and that close relatives of theirs were spoken in the Balkans possibly as late as Late Antiquity, and were first absorbed by Greek and Latin/Romance and then Slavic. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:53, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
We do use Van Driem's fallen leaf model, really, look at the infobox (which then refers to the section about Van Driem's classification). Of course, there have been other, less-agnostic classifications in the past, and these should be mentioned for their historical relevance (this is why the 'traditional' split is also mentioned in the infobox). I find the rest of what you've said quite informative. --JorisvS (talk) 09:28, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

Alternative names[edit]

Many of these languages and groups are referred to in the literature under a variety of names, making it difficult to relate what is written here to other accounts. I know I've found it difficult to unravel. It's true that other names are given in the specific articles on those languages and groups, but it would take a lot of clicking to find them. It would therefore be helpful to readers for this article to mention alternative names that are widely used in the literature. Kanguole 13:40, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

I disagree. Mentioning alternative names tends to clutter the text or family tree that contains the language. For clarity, we should use the name at which its article is located. The alternative names can and should be mentioned in the articles about these languages. --JorisvS (talk) 13:44, 20 October 2014 (UTC)
I've already agreed that the alternative names should be given in the specific articles; using the article name is also reasonable. But I also explained that alternative names serve a purpose in this article too, which you haven't addressed. Removing them makes this article tidier, but that benefit is outweighed by the loss of utility to readers. Kanguole 15:29, 20 October 2014 (UTC)
I'm willing to discuss specific instances to see if they have a distinct usefulness. In general, though, my experience is that less is more: tidier makes for more easy reading and therefore more efficient uptake of the material. --JorisvS (talk) 16:13, 20 October 2014 (UTC)
Both van Driem and Hyslop refer to 'Ole(kha) as "Black Mountain Monpa". A single parenthetical here will help any reader relate what they read there to what they read here, without having to examine 'Ole language, Gongduk language, Lhokpu language and possibly others to determine which of these vD and H and talking about. Similarly (in East Bodish languages), some authors use Bumthap and others Bumthang, and it's not obvious they're talking about the same thing. Sometimes less is just less. Efficient uptake is not just rapid scanning of names; it also involves knowing what the names refer to. Kanguole 11:04, 21 October 2014 (UTC)
Of course it means knowing what the names refer to. The general reader will have to follow the links to these languages' articles regardless. Only certain specialists may be helped in this case, and then a one can expect at least a substantial number who are familiar with both names anyway. --JorisvS (talk) 11:13, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Stammbaum in Blench & Post (2013)[edit]

The East and West branches of the tree in Figure 6 seem to have their names the wrong way round, both from the locations of the languages mentioned, and from the discussion elsewhere of Sinitic, Tujia, Bai, etc as eastward migrations (illustrated in Figure 5). The figure in the conference version has the labels the other way round, but the conference presentation doesn't. Kanguole 11:21, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

I had switched them because I was reading through their article here and saw that the labels were reversed. It seems they accidentally reversed their labels. Thanks for spotting. I've reversed them again and added a hidden note to prevent this confusion in the future. --JorisvS (talk) 11:45, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Central Tibetan vs. Central Tibetic[edit]

I'll ask here, because there has been no response at Talk:Tibetic languages. At Central Tibetan language there is a hatnote saying "not to be confused with Central Tibetic languages", which then redirects to the Classification section at Tibetic languages. Yet, its Classification section only mentions Central Tibetan. It does mention that some authors break up Central Tibetan. What is the difference and how does it relate to that break up by some authors? --JorisvS (talk) 18:39, 28 October 2014 (UTC)

This old version of Central Tibetic languages might shed some light on the issue. --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 19:10, 28 October 2014 (UTC)