Tibeto-Burman languages

Tibeto-Burman languages

Infobox Language family
region=East Asia
family = Sino-Tibetan (debated) [Cf. Beckwith, Christopher I. 1996. "The Morphological Argument for the Existence of Sino-Tibetan." "Pan-Asiatic Linguistics: Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Languages and Linguistics, January 8-10, 1996". Vol. III, pp. 812-826. Bangkok: Mahidol University at Salaya.]
child6=North Assam
The Tibeto-Burman family of languages (often considered a sub-group of the Sino-Tibetan language family) is spoken in various central and south Asian countries, including Myanmar (Burma), Tibet, northern Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, parts of central China (Guizhou, Hunan), northern parts of Nepal, north-eastern parts of Bangladesh, Bhutan, western Pakistan (Baltistan), and various regions of India (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and both the Ladakh and Kargil regions of Jammu and Kashmir).

The subfamily includes approximately 350 languages; Burmese has the most speakers (approximately 32 million). Approximately 8 million Tibetans and related peoples speak one of several related Tibetan dialects or languages.

Recently George van Driem has advocated elevating "Tibeto-Burman" to displace "Sino-Tibetan" as the top-tier language family, with the Chinese languages (Sinitic) classified as a sub-branch within the Tibeto-Burman/Sino-Tibetan family. [Van Driem, George "Tibeto-Burman Phylogeny and Prehistory: Languages, Material Culture and Genes". Bellwood, Peter & Renfrew, Colin (eds) "Examining the farming/language dispersal hypothesis" (2003), Ch 19.] This proposal has not been widely accepted.


There have been two major classifications: Shafer (1966) and Benedict (1972). Since then, many languages previously inadequately documented have received more attention with the publication of new grammars, dictionaries, and wordlists. This new research has greatly benefited comparative work. Bradley (1997) is a newer classification that incorporates the newer data.

Bradley (1997)

I. "Bodic" (a.k.a. Western): A. Bodish:: i. Central Bodish (a.k.a. Tibetan)::: a. Western Tibetan::: b. Central Tibetan:::: i) Western:::: ii) mNgaẖris:::: iii) gTsang:::: iv) dBus (a.k.a. 'Central' Central Tibetan):::: v) Southern Tibetan::: c. Amdo Tibetan (a.k.a. Northeastern Tibetan)::: d. Khams Tibetan (a.k.a. Southeastern Tibetan):: ii. West Bodish (a.k.a. Gurung, Tamang):: iii. East Bodish (a.k.a. Bumthang):: iv. Tshangla (a.k.a. East Bodic):: v. West Himalayish (a.k.a. Kanauri): B. Himalayan:: i. Central:: ii. Kiranti

II. "North-East India" (a.k.a. Sal): A. Bodo-Garo:: i. Northern Naga: B. Jinghpaw: C. Luish (a.k.a. Sak): D. Pyu

III. "Kuki-Chin": A. Southern Naga: B. Kuki: C. Chin: D. Arleng

IV. "Central": A. Lepcha: B. Western Arunachal: C. Adi-Galo-Mishing-Nishi (a.k.a. Abor-Miri-Dafla, Tani group of people believed to be descendants of ABOTANI, first Human being): D. Digarish 'Mishmi': E. Keman 'Mishmi': F. Rawang (a.k.a. Nungish)

V. "North-Eastern"

VI. "South-Eastern": A. Burmese-Lolo (a.k.a. Burmic):: i. Mru:: ii. Gong:: iii. Burmish:: iv. Loloish::: a. Northern::: b. Central::: c. Southern: B. Karen

Benedict (1972)

A very influential classification (although tentative) is that of Benedict (1972). This was a collaborated effort of Paul Benedict and Robert Shafer (completed around 1942-1943) with editing by James Matisoff. This classification puts Tibeto-Burman under a larger Sino-Tibetan phylum:

:Sino-Tibetan:# Chinese:# Tibeto-Karen:#* Karen:#* Tibeto-Burman

The Tibeto-Burman sub-family is then composed of 7 main branches:

I. "Tibetan-Kanauri" (a.k.a. Bodish-Himalayish): A. Bodish (in eastern & southern Tibet): B. Himalayish:: i. "major" Himalayish (in western Tibet, western India):: ii. "minor" Himalayish (in Uttarakhand):: iii. Dzorgai (in Sichuan) "?":: iv. Lepcha (in Sikkim) "?":: v. Magari (in Nepal) "?"

II. "Bahing-Vayu" (a.k.a. Kiranti) (in Nepal): A. Bahing: B. Khambu: C. Vayu-Chepang: D. Nepal Bhasa "?"

III. "Abor-Miri-Dafla" (a.k.a. Mirish, North Assam) (in Sikkim, northern Assam)

IV. "Kachin" (in northern Myanmar)

V. "Burmese-Lolo" (a.k.a. Burmish) (in Sichuan, Yunnan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam): A. Burmese-Maru: B. Southern Lolo: C. Northern Lolo: D. Kanburi Lawa (Kanchanaburi, Thailand): E. Moso (a.k.a. Nakhi) (in western Yunnan): F. Hsi-fan (in western Sichuan): G. Tangut (in northwestern China): H. Nung "?"

VI. "Bodo-Garo" (a.k.a. Barish) {in northern Assam, northern Myanmar): A. Bodo: B. Garo:: i. Garo A:: ii. Garo B: C. "Naked Naga" (a.k.a. Konyak) "?": D. Chairel "?"

VII. "Kuki-Naga" (a.k.a. Kukish) (in southern Assam-Myanmar area): A. Central Kuki: B. Northern Kuki: C. Old Kuki: D. Southern Kuki: E. Northern Naga: F. Southern Naga

In this classification,

* "Bodish" includes Tibetan, Gyarung, Takpa, Tsangla, Murmi, and Gurung;
* "major Himalayish" includes Kanauri, Chitkhuli, Thebor, Kanashi, Rangloi, Bunan, Manchati, Chamba Lahuli, and Zhang-zhung;
* "minor Himalayish" includes Rangkas, Darmiya, Chaudangsi, and Byangsi.

Dzorgai, Lepcha, and Magari seem to be most similar to the Tibetan-Kanauri branch. Lepcha may be a separate transitional branch like Kachin. Margari is also similar to Bahing-Vayu.

* "Bahing" includes Sunwari, Dumi, Khaling, and Rai.
* "Khambu" includes Sangpang, Nachereng, Rodong, Waling, Rungchengbung, Lambichong, Chingtang, Limbu, and Yakha.

Nepal Bhasa (Newari) shares similarities to both Bahing and Khambu. Aka (a.k.a. Hrusso) may belong to Abor-Miri-Dafla. Digaro, Miju, and Dhimal may also be Abor-Miri-Dafla, but this even more uncertain. "Kachin" seems to be a transitional branch containing features similar to all other branches. Kadu-Andro-Sengmai (a.k.a. Luish) and Taman may belong to Kachin.

* "Burmese-Maru" includes Phön, Lashi, Atsi, and Achang.
* "Southern Lolo" includes Phunoi, Akha, Lahu, Black Lolo, White Lolo, and Müng.
* "Northern Lolo" includes Lisu, Ahi, Nyi, Lolopho, Chöko, Phupha, Ulu, and Independent Lolo.
* "Hsi-fan" includes Manyak, Horpa, Menia, and Muli.

Nung may belong to Burmese-Lolo, but it also has similarities to Kachin. Pyu is similar to Nung.

* "Bodo" includes Dimasa.
* "Naked Naga" includes Banpara, Tableng, Namsang, Tamlu, Moshang, and Chang. Eastern languages of Naked Naga, although similar to Bodo-Garo, have similarities with Kachin.

Deori Chutiya (northern Assam) belongs to Bodo-Garo, although to which sub-group is uncertain.

hafer (1966-1974)

Unlike Benedict (1972), Shafer's tentative classification does not separate Sino-Tibetan into two branches: "Chinese" and "Tibeto-Burman". Rather, Chinese (Sinitic) is placed on the same level as Benedict's subgroupings of Tibeto-Burman.


: I. "Sinitic"

: II. "Daic"

: III. "Bodic"

: IV. "Burmic"

: V. "Baric"

: VI. "Karenic"


I. "Bai"

II. "Himalayish": A. Mahakiranti:: i. Kham-Magar-Chepang-Sunwari::: a. Chepang::: b. Kham::: c. Magar::: d. Sunwari:: ii. Kiranti::: a. Tomyang::: b. Eastern::: c. Western:: iii. Newar: B. Tibeto-Kanauri:: i. Dzalakha:: ii. Lepcha:: iii. Western Himalayish:: iv. Tibetic::: a. Tshangla::: b. Dhimal::: c. Tamangic::: d. Tibetan: C. Baima "(unclassified)"

III. "Jingpho-Konyak-Bodo": A. Jingpho-Luish: B. Konyak-Bodo-Garo

IV. "Karen": A. Pa’o: B. Zayein: C. Pwo: D. Sgaw-Bghai:: i. Bghai:: ii. Brek:: iii. Kayah:: iv. Sgaw: E. Zayein Karen "(unclassified)"

V. "Kuki-Chin-Naga": A. Kuki-Chin:: i. Central:: ii. Northern:: iii. Southern: B. Naga:: i. Angami-Pochuri:: ii. Ao:: iii. Tangkhul:: iv. unclassified Naga:: v. Zeme

VI. "Lolo-Burmese": A. Burmish:: i. Northern:: ii. Southern:: iii. unclassified Burmish: B. Loloish:: i. Northern ::: a. Lisu::: b. Samei::: c. Yi:: i. Southern:: ii. unclassified Loloish: C. Naxi: D. Phula "(unclassified)"

VII. "Meitei"

VIII. "Mikir"

IX. "North Assam": A. Deng: B. Tani

X. "Nungish"

XI. "Tangut-Qiang": A. Qiangic: B. rGyarong

XII. "Tujia"

XII. "unclassified Tibeto-Burman"

XIV. "West Bodish"

XV. "Mru"



* Benedict, Paul K. (1972). "Sino-Tibetan: A conspectus". J. A. Matisoff (Ed.). Cambridge: The University Press. ISBN 0-521-08175-0.
* Bradley, David. (1997). Tibeto-Burman languages and classification. In D. Bradley (Ed.), "Papers in South East Asian linguistics: Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas" (No. 14, pp. 1-71). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
* Shafer, Robert. (1966). "Introduction to Sino-Tibetan" (Part 1). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
* Shafer, Robert. (1967). "Introduction to Sino-Tibetan" (Part 2). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
* Shafer, Robert. (1968). "Introduction to Sino-Tibetan" (Part 3). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
* Shafer, Robert. (1970). "Introduction to Sino-Tibetan" (Part 4). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
* Shafer, Robert. (1974). "Introduction to Sino-Tibetan" (Part 5). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

ee also

*Language Families
*List of Tibeto-Burman languages

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