Tibeto-Burman languages

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Tibeto-Burman languages,

subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. See Sino-Tibetan languagesSino-Tibetan languages,
family of languages spoken by over a billion people in central and SE Asia. This linguistic family is second only to the Indo-European stock in the number of its speakers.
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; BurmeseBurmese,
language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages (see Sino-Tibetan languages). It is spoken by about 30 million people in Myanmar, where it is both the principal and the official language.
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; Tibetan languageTibetan language,
member of the Tibeto-Burman subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages (see Sino-Tibetan languages). It is spoken by 5 million people in the Tibet autonomous region and the Qinghai and Gansu provinces of China and in Bhutan, Nepal, the Indian state of
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Tibeto-Burman Languages


a group of languages distinguished by some scholars within the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Tibeto-Burman languages are spoken mainly in the People’s Republic of China (Tibetan Autonomous Region and the southwestern part of China), Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, northern India (including Sikkim), and Bhutan. The number of speakers is approximately 35 million (1970, estimate).

According to the American scholar P. Benedict, the Tibeto-Burman languages may be divided into seven basic groups: (1) Tibetan-Kanauri, including Tibetan, Gurung, Murmi, and Kanauri; (2) Kiranti, including Vayu, Bahing, and Chepang; (3) Miri, including Miri, Abor, and Dafla; (4) Kachin; (5) Burmese-Lolo, including Burmese, Lisu, Lahu, Nakhi, and Tangut (Hsi-Hsia); (6) Barish, including Garo and Bobo; and (7) Kuki-Naga, including Lushei, Thado, Ao, Sema, and Empeo. However, certain scholars find insufficient linguistic foundation for distinguishing a Tibeto-Burmese branch of the Sino-Tibetan family.

Although the Tibet-Burman languages share certain common features, including syllabic structure and word order, they differ significantly among themselves. They include languages with developed morphologies, including Kachin and Newari (the latter’s place in the classification has not been determined), and isolating languages, including many of the Burmese-Lolo languages. Tones have developed in some of the languages. The written languages use alphabets of Indian origin, for example, Tibetan, Burmese, and Newari, or native hieroglyphic systems, for example, Tangut and Moso; most, however, lack writing systems. Burmese, Tibetan, Tangut, and Newari also have their own literatures.


Shafer, R. Introduction to Sino-Tibetan, vols. 1–5. Wiesbaden, 1966–74.
Shafer, R. Bibliography of Sino-Tibetan Languages, vols. 1–2. Wiesbaden, 1957–63.
Benedict, P. K. Sino-Tibetan: A Conspectus. Cambridge, 1972.
References in periodicals archive ?
In many Tibeto-Burman languages, for example, there are a number of verbs for 'exist' or 'be at', each compatible with a different subset of nouns (S-arguments), see La Polla (1994).
In the hills and in the mountains, the speakers of the Tibeto-Burman languages are often found to use Nepali as their link language.
Bauman (1975) reconstructed <-na> as the second person morpheme of Tibeto-Burman languages.
There are about 200 Tibeto-Burman languages, only about ten of which have been properly described," says Kortlandt.
In the author's own introduction she tells us that Professor Luce as part of his own research transcribed phonetically long lists of words from many of the Karen dialects and compared them with other Tibeto-Burman languages.
Matisoff et al (1996) presents 79 Tibeto-Burman languages.
Not only does their population straddle the modern Indo-Burma borderline but, much more significantly, in their Mongoloid physical characteristics, Tibeto-Burman languages, swidden agricultural technology, animotheistic beliefs and practices, political oscillation between rule by democratic village councils and autocratic village chiefs, head-hunting and merit-feasting -- to mention some of the more important traditional cultural traits -- the Naga peoples' affiliations clearly are more with the socio-cultural world of the uplands of mainland Southeast Asia, than with those of Hindu South Asia.
There are many cognates in Tibeto-Burman languages.
The Bramhmi script grew out of phonetic and metrical insights into the process and mechanisms of speech articulation, and is used today in Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic, and Tibeto-Burman languages throughout southern Asia.
In the search for an explanation of a secondary origin for the division-three medial yod, another factor has undoubtedly been comparisons of Chinese with cognate Tibeto-Burman languages.
Though the history of Old Chinese is less understand than that of typical Indo-European languages, he says, enough has been learned about Chinese and related Tibeto-Burman languages over the past few decades that some historical insights can be suggested.