Sinitic languages

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Linguistic classification: Sino-Tibetan
  • Sinitic
ISO 639-5: zhx
Glottolog: sini1245  (Chinese)[1]

The Sinitic languages,[2] 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,[3] but this is rejected by an increasing number of researchers. The Bai language, whose classification is difficult, may also be Sinitic;[4] 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.[5]


L1 speakers of Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages according to the Ethnologue

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.[6][7] The major groups of this classification, Mandarin, Wu, Yue, Southern Min and so on, are not mutually intelligible.[8] In fact, many varieties within each of these groups are also mutually unintelligible.[9] Some varieties remain unclassified within Chinese.

Min varieties are commmonly understood to have split off directly from Old Chinese.[10] 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.[11]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chinese". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ van Driem (2001), p. 351.
  4. ^ van Driem (2001:403) states "Bái ... may form a constituent of Sinitic, albeit one heavily influenced by Lolo–Burmese."
  5. ^ See, for example, Enfield (2003:69) and Hannas (1997)
  6. ^ Kurpkaska (2010), pp. 41–53, 55–56.
  7. ^ Yan (2006), pp. 9–18, 61–69, 222.
  8. ^ Norman (2003), p. 72.
  9. ^ Thurgood (200), p. 6.
  10. ^ Mei (1970), p. ?.
  11. ^ 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