Tani, aka Miric, Adi–Galo–Mishing–Nishi (Bradley 1997), or Abor–Miri–Dafla (Matisoff 2003), is a compact family of Tibeto-Burman languages situated at the eastern end of the Himalayas, in an area skirted on four sides by Tibet, Assam, Bhutan, and Burma. Jackson T-S Sun (1993) argues that Tani is a primary branch of Tibeto-Burman.
The Tani languages are spoken by about 600,000 people of Arunachal Pradesh, including the Adi (many subtribes), Nyishi, Hill Miri, Tagin, and Apatani peoples of the East Kameng, Lower Subansiri, Upper Subansiri, West Siang, East Siang, Upper Siang, and Dibang Valley districts of Arunachal Pradesh. In Arunachal Pradesh alone the Tani-speaking area covers some 40,000 square kilometers, or roughly half the size of the state. Scattered Tani communities spill over the Sino-Indian border into adjacent areas in Mêdog (Miguba people), Mainling (Bokar and Tagin peoples), and Lhünzê (Bangni, Na, Bayi, Dazu, and Mara peoples) counties of Tibet, where together with the non-Tani Idu and Taraõ they form the Lhoba nationality.
The Tani languages are conservatively classified as a distinct branch in Tibeto-Burman. Their closest relatives may be their eastern neighbors the Digarish languages, Taraon and Idu; this was first suggested by Sun (1993), but a relationship has not yet been systematically demonstrated. It is not clear which are distinct languages at this point since some are undocumented.
A provisional classification in Sun (1993) is
- Eastern Tani
- Western Tani
To Eastern Tani, van Driem (2008) adds the following possible languages:
To Western Tani, he lists:
Proto-Tani was partially reconstructed by Sun (1993). A large number of reconstructed roots have cognates in other Tibeto-Burman languages. However, a great deal of Proto-Tani vocabulary have no cognates within Tibeto-Burman (Post 2011), and most Tani grammar seems to be secondary, without cognates in grammatically conservative Tibeto-Burman languages such as Jingpho or the Kiranti languages (Post 2006). This suggests that the Tani languages may have undergone an areal-substrate influence at an early stage in their development, most likely as a result of population expansion within their current range. These characteristics are especially pronounced in Apatani.
Mark Post (2013) proposes the following revised classification for the Tani languages.
- Post, Mark W. (2013). Defoliating the Tani Stammbaum: An exercise in areal linguistics. Paper presented at the 13th Himalayan Languages Symposium. Canberra, Australian National University, Aug 9.
- Bradley, David, 1997. 'Tibeto-Burman languages and classification.' In David Bradley, ed. Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas. Canberra, Australian National University Press: 1–72.
- James A. Matisoff, 2003. The Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction. Berkeley, University of California Press.
- van Driem, George, 2001. Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region. Brill.
- Post, Mark, 2006. Compounding and the structure of the Tani lexicon. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 29 (1): 41–60.
- Post, Mark, 2011. Isolate substrates, creolization and the internal diversity of Tibeto-Burman. Workshop on The Roots of Linguistic Diversity. The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Australia, June 9–10.
- Post, Mark, 2012. The language, culture, environment and origins of Proto-Tani speakers: What is knowable, and what is not (yet). In S. Blackburn and T. Huber, Eds. Origins and Migrations in the Extended Eastern Himalaya. Leiden, Brill: 161–194.
- Post, Mark W. and Roger Blench, 2011. "Siangic: A new language phylum in North East India." 6th International Conference of the North East Indian Linguistics Society, Tezpur University, Assam, India, January 29 – February 2.
- Sun, Tian-Shin, 1993. A Historical and Comparative Study of the Tani (Mirish) Branch of Tibeto-Burman. Berkeley, University of California PhD Dissertation.