Sino-Tibetan languages

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The Sino-Tibetan languages form a language family composed of, at least, the Chinese and the Tibeto-Burman languages, including some 250 languages of East Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia. They are second only to the Indo-European languages in terms of the number of native speakers. Some linguists include the Tai-Kadai and Hmong-Mien language families[citation needed].The classification of languages suggested for the Sino-Tibetan family and its subfamilies is still unresolved, and more work must be done before general agreement is reached.


Validity of language family

The Sino-Tibetan language family has also been defined, principally among Chinese linguists, as including the Tai and Hmong-Mien languages. In the past, Vietnamese and other Mon-Khmer languages were classified under the Sino-Tibetan tree; however, their similarities to Chinese are currently credited to language contact. In the Western scholarly community, the other tonal language families of East Asia, Tai-Kadai languages and Hmong-Mien (Miao-Yao), are no longer classified under the Sino-Tibetan tree either, with the similarities attributed to borrowings and areal features, especially after Benedict's publication (1972). However, in the Chinese scholarly community, Tai-Kadai (actually Zhuang-Dong or Kam-Tai, which excludes i.a. the Kra languages) and Hmong-Mien are still commonly included in the Sino-Tibetan family.[1]

A few scholars, most prominently Christopher Beckwith and Roy Andrew Miller, argue that Chinese is not related to Tibeto-Burman. They point to what they consider an absence of regular sound correspondences, an absence of reconstructable shared morphology[2], and evidence that much shared lexical material has been borrowed from Chinese into Tibeto-Burman. In opposition to this view, scholars in favor of the Sino-Tibetan hypothesis such as W. South Coblin, Graham Thurgood, James Matisoff, and Gong Hwang cherng have argued that there are regular correspondences in sounds as well as in grammar.

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