The Mahakiranti or Maha-Kiranti ('Greater Kiranti') languages are a proposed intermediate level of classification of the Sino-Tibetan languages. They are the languages most closely related to the Kiranti languages proper, which are spoken by the Kirati people, and by those spoken by the Rai. The conception of which languages belong in Mahakiranti—or if Mahakiranti is even a valid group—varies between researchers. Originally, proposed by Van Driem, he retracted his proposal in 2003 after a field study in Bhutan.
Conceptions of Mahakiranti
Van Driem (2001) posits that the Mahakiranti languages besides Kiranti proper are Newar, Baram, and Thangmi. Baram and Thangmi are clearly related, but it is not yet clear if the similarities they share with Newar demonstrate a 'Para-Kiranti' family, as Van Driem suggests, or if they are borrowings. He sees Lepcha, Lhokpu, and the Magaric languages (in the narrow sense, whether or not Chepangic proves to be Magar) as the Bodic languages closest to Mahakiranti.
- Van Driem's conception of Mahakiranti
Bradley (1997) adds Magar and Chepang to van Driem's Mahakiranti and calls the result Himalayan. This, along with his "Bodish" (equivalent to Tibeto-Kanauri), constitutes his Bodic family.
Ethnologue (15th ed.) posits Magaric, Chepang, and Newar alongside Kiranti; Mahakiranti is in turn posited to be related to Tibeto-Kanauri in a Himalayish branch, largely equivalent to other scholars' Bodic.
Benedict (1972) included Newar and Chepangic, but not Magaric. He mistakenly classified Vayu as Chepangic and thus named the family Bahing–Vayu.
Retraction of the hypothesis by Van Driem
After a field visit to Bhutan, Van Driem, the original proponent of this hypothesis, collected data on Gondhuk language which made him realize morphological traits common between Kiranti and Newarish are not unique to either Kiranti or Newari but a shared retention of a far older trait. He retracted his proposal in 2003.
- George van Driem (2001). Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region. Brill.
- Mark Turing, Newar-Thangmi lexical correspondence, Journal of Asian and African Studies,No. 68, 2004.
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