The Sinitic languages, are a family of Sino-Tibetan languages, often synonymous with the group of Chinese varieties. They have frequently been postulated to constitute a primary branch, but this is rejected by an increasing number of researchers. The Bai language, whose classification is difficult, may also be Sinitic; otherwise Sinitic is equivalent to Chinese, and usage of the term may reflect the view that the varieties of Chinese are distinct languages, rather than dialects of a single language.
Chinese dialectologists have refined a hierarchical classification of local varieties, based on the evolution of the sound categories of Middle Chinese. Some details are disputed, including the designation in the 1980s of three new top-level groups, Huizhou, Jin and Pinghua. The major groups of this classification, Mandarin, Wu, Yue, Southern Min and so on, are not mutually intelligible. In fact, many varieties within each of these groups are also mutually unintelligible. Some varieties remain unclassified within Chinese.
- ? Macro-Bai
- Ba-Shu †
- Wu (incl. Shanghainese)
- Yue (Cantonese)
- unclassified varieties, including:
Min varieties are commmonly understood to have split off directly from Old Chinese. The evidence for the split is that all Chinese languages apart from Min can be fit into the structure of the Qieyun, a 7th-century rime dictionary.
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chinese". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Sinitic means relating to China or the Chinese. It is derived from the Greco-Latin word Sīnai ('the Chinese'), probably from Arabic Ṣīn ('China'), from the Chinese dynastic name Qín. (OED)
- van Driem (2001), p. 351.
- van Driem (2001:403) states "Bái ... may form a constituent of Sinitic, albeit one heavily influenced by Lolo–Burmese."
- See, for example, Enfield (2003:69) and Hannas (1997)
- Kurpkaska (2010), pp. 41–53, 55–56.
- Yan (2006), pp. 9–18, 61–69, 222.
- Norman (2003), p. 72.
- Thurgood (200), p. 6.
- Mei (1970), p. ?.
- Pulleyblank (1984), p. 3.
- van Driem, George (2001), Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region, Brill, ISBN 90-04-10390-2
- Enfield, N.J. (2003), Linguistics Epidemiology: Semantics and Language Contact in Mainland Southeast Asia, Psychology Press, ISBN 0415297435
- Hannas, W. (1997), Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 082481892X
- Kurpaska, Maria (2010), Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects", Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2
- Mei, Tsu=lin (1970), "Tones and prosody in Middle Chinese and the origin of the rising tone", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 30: 86–110, JSTOR 2718766
- Norman, Jerry (2003), "The Chinese dialects: Phonology", in Thurgood, Graham; LaPolla, Randy J., The Sino-Tibetan languages, Routledge, pp. 72–83, ISBN 978-0-7007-1129-1
- Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1984), Middle Chinese: A study in Historical Phonology, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, ISBN 978-0-7748-0192-8
- Thurgood, Graham (2003), "The subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman languages: The interaction between language contact, change, and inheritence", in Thurgood, Graham; LaPolla, Randy J., The Sino-Tibetan languages, Routledge, pp. 3–21, ISBN 978-0-7007-1129-1
- Yan, Margaret Mian (2006), Introduction to Chinese Dialectology, LINCOM Europa, ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6