Sino–Tibetan languages

Asian language family
(Redirected from Sino-Tibetan languages)

The Sino-Tibetan or Han-Tibetan languages, form a language family. This includes Chinese and the Tibeto-Burman languages and some 250 languages of East Asia. Kra-Dai languages and Hmong–Mien languages are also sometimes included.

East Asia
Linguistic classification:One of the world's major language families
ISO 639-2 and 639-5:sit
Sino-tibetan languages.png
     Sino-Tibetan languages

The largest language within this family are the Chinese languages by far with over 1.3 billion native speakers. It is also the one with the oldest writing (hanzi) going back to the Jiahu symbols in 6600 BC.

All these languages descend from a single proto-language. People are still working on what this sounded like.

Where did it come from?Edit

Very likely the Huanghe in North-Central China (Zhongyuan).

Zhang et al. (2019) did a study of 109 Sino-Tibetan languages to suggest a Sino-Tibetan homeland in northern China near the Huanghe basin. He found there was a split between Sinitic languages and the Tibeto-Burman languages approximately 4,200-7,800 years ago (with an average of 5,900 years ago). This is connected with the expansion of the Yangshao culture and Majiayao culture.[1] Others agree by using different data; they say it came from around 7,200 years ago, around the Cishan and early Yangshao culture.[2]

Example languagesEdit

Evolution of languageEdit

Proto-Chinese and Proto-Tibeto-Burman are both agglutinative languages. Proto-Chinese changed to Old Chinese around the Shang Dynasty. This is shown in the Book of songs. Nouns, verbs, and modifiers were all dependent on affixes (beginning of words) such as *s-, *p-, *-k.[3][4] After the Warring State Period in China, Old Chinese started using tones.[5] The suffix (end of words) *-s was also used.

The typical word order in Sino-Tibetan languages is object-verb. Modern Chinese, Bai, Karenic, and Mruic are exceptions.

SOV is likely the original word order.[6][7] Over time Chinese became subject–verb–object.[6] However, Chinese differs from almost all other VO languages in the world in placing relative clauses before the nouns they modify.[8]

Relation to other language familiesEdit

Sino-Tibetan may be related to the Altaic languages. Mang Mulin, a Mongolian linguistics professor at the Inner Mongolia Normal University, began studying the origin of Mongolian words in the late 1970s.[9]

There are links between Sino-Tibetan, Austroasiatic (from South China), and Austronesian (from Taiwan) languages.

There may even be connections between Chinese and the native languages of the Americas (Na-Dene) and Western Eurasia (Yeniseian).

Sino-American (Dene-Caucasian)

Related pagesEdit


  1. Zhang, Meng-han (张梦翰); Yan, Shi (严实); Pan, Wuyun (潘悟云); & Jin, Li (金力). (2019). Phylogenetic evidence for Sino-Tibetan origin in northern China in the Late Neolithic. Nature, 569, 112–115. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1153-z
  2. Sagart, Laurent, Guillaume Jacques, Yunfan Lai, Robin Ryder, Valentin Thouzeau, Simon J. Greenhill, and Johann-Mattis List (2019): Dated language phylogenies shed light on the history of Sino-Tibetan. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1817972116
  3. Wu (1987).
  4. 吴, 安其. "汉藏语使动和完成体前缀的残存与同源的动词词根".
  5. Wang (1980), p. 221.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dryer (2003), pp. 43–45.
  7. DeLancey, Scott. "On the origins of Sinitic". Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  8. Dryer (2003), pp. 50.
  9. "Han-Tibetan, Altaic Languages "Close Relatives"". Retrieved 2019-07-24.