Burmo-Qiangic languages

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Eastern Tibeto-Burman
China, Burma
Linguistic classificationSino-Tibetan
  • Burmo-Qiangic

The Burmo-Qiangic or Eastern Tibeto-Burman languages are a proposed family of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Southwest China and Myanmar. It consists of the Lolo-Burmese and Qiangic branches, including the extinct Tangut language.


Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011)[2] argue for a Burmo-Qiangic branch of Sino-Tibetan (Tibeto-Burman) with two primary subbranches, Qiangic and Lolo-Burmese. Similarly, David Bradley (2008)[3] proposes an Eastern Tibeto-Burman branch that includes Burmic (AKA Lolo-Burmese) and Qiangic. Bradley notes that Lolo-Burmese and Qiangic share some unique lexical items, even though they are morphologically quite different; whereas all Lolo-Burmese languages are tonal and analytical, Qiangic languages are often non-tonal and possess agglutinative morphology. However, the position of Naic is unclear, as it has been grouped as Lolo-Burmese by Lama (2012), but as Qiangic by Jacques & Michaud (2011) and Bradley (2008).

Sun (1988) also proposed a similar classification that grouped Qiangic and Lolo-Burmese together.

Jacques' & Michaud's (2011) proposed tree is as follows.








Bradley's (2008) proposal is as follows. Note that Bradley calls Lolo-Burmese Burmic, which is not to be confused with Burmish, and calls Loloish Ngwi.

Eastern Tibeto-Burman 




However, Chirkova (2012)[4] doubts that Qiangic is a valid genetic unit, and considers Ersu, Shixing, Namuyi, and Pumi all as separate Tibeto-Burman branches that are part of a Qiangic Sprachbund, rather than as part of a coherent Qiangic phylogenetic branch. This issue has also been further discussed by Yu (2012).[5]

Lee & Sagart (2008)[6] argue that Bai is a Tibeto-Burman language that has borrowed very heavily from Old Chinese. Lee & Sagart (2008) note that word relating to rice and pig agriculture tend to be non-Chinese, and that the genetic non-Chinese layer of Bai shows similarities with Proto-Loloish.


Yu (2012:206-207)[5] lists the following well-established coherent branches (including individual languages, in italics below) that could likely all fit into a wider Burmo-Qiangic group, in geographical order from north to south.

Additionally, Tangut, now extinct, is generally classified as a Qiangic language.

Yu (2012:215-218)[5] notes that Ersuic and Naic languages could possibly group together, since they share many features with each other that are not found in Lolo-Burmese or other Qiangic groups.

Proto-language reconstructions for some of these branches include:

Lexical evidence[edit]

Jacques & Michaud (2011)[2][12] list the following lexical items as likely Burmo-Qiangic lexical innovations.

Gloss rGyalrong Tangut Na Proto-Naish Burmese Achang Hani
copula ŋu ŋwu² ŋi˩˧ ? - - ŋɯ˧˩
star ʑŋgri gjịj¹ kɯ˥ *kri kray² kʰʐə˥ a˧˩gɯ˥
forget jmɯt mjɨ̣² mv̩.pʰæᴸ⁺ᴹᴴ *mi me¹ ɲi˧˥ ɲi˥
be ill ngo < *ngaŋ ŋo² gu˩ *go
flint ʁdɯrtsa - tse.miᴴ *tsa
to hide nɤtsɯ - tsɯ˥ (Naxi) *tsu
to swallow mqlaʁ - ʁv̩˥ *NqU < *Nqak
dry spɯ - pv̩˧ *Spu
thick jaʁ laa¹ lo˧˥ *laC₂
jump mtsaʁ - tsʰo˧ *tsʰaC₂
winter qartsɯ tsur¹ tsʰi˥ *tsʰu cʰoŋ³ tɕʰɔŋ˧˩ tsʰɔ˧˩ga̱˧
knee tə-mŋɑ (Situ) ŋwer² ŋwɤ.koᴴ *ŋwa
sun ʁmbɣi be² bi˧ (Naxi) *bi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Burmo-Qiangic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b c Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages." Diachronica 28:468–498.
  3. ^ Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman. Paper presented at Workshop on Namuyi, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 2008.
  4. ^ Chirkova, Katia (2012). "The Qiangic Subgroup from an Areal Perspective: A Case Study of Languages of Muli." In Languages and Linguistics 13(1):133-170. Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  5. ^ a b c d Yu, Dominic. 2012. Proto-Ersuic. Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Linguistics.
  6. ^ Lee, Y.-J., & Sagart, L. (2008). No limits to borrowing: The case of Bai and Chinese. Diachronica, 25(3), 357–385.
  7. ^ Chirkova, Ekaterina. 2008. On the Position of Baima within Tibetan: A Look from Basic Vocabulary. Alexander Lubotsky, Jos Schaeken and Jeroen Wiedenhof. Rodopi, pp.23, 2008, Evidence and counter-evidence: Festschrift F. Kortlandt. <halshs-00104311>
  8. ^ Gong Xun (2015). How Old is the Chinese in Bái? Reexamining Sino-Bái under the Baxter-Sagart reconstruction. Paper presented at the Recent Advances in Old Chinese Historical Phonology workshop, SOAS, London.
  9. ^ a b Sims, Nathaniel. 2017. The suprasegmental phonology of proto-Rma (Qiang) in comparative perspective. Presented at the 50th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Beijing, China.
  10. ^ Matisoff, James A. (2003), Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-09843-5.
  11. ^ * Wang, Feng (2006). Comparison of languages in contact: the distillation method and the case of Bai. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series B: Frontiers in Linguistics III. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. ISBN 986-00-5228-X.
  12. ^ Jacques & Michaud (2011), appendix p.7
  • Bradley, David. 1997. "Tibeto-Burman languages and classification". In D. Bradley (Ed.), Tibeto-Burman languages of the Himalayas (Papers in South East Asian linguistics No. 14) pp. 1–71, Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. ISBN 978-0-85883-456-9.
  • Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman. Paper presented at Workshop on Namuyi, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 2008.
  • Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages." Diachronica 28:468-498.
  • Lama, Ziwo Qiu-Fuyuan (2012), Subgrouping of Nisoic (Yi) Languages, thesis, University of Texas at Arlington (archived)
  • Sūn, Hóngkāi 孙宏开. 1988. Shilun woguo jingnei Zang-Mianyude puxi fenlei 试论我国境内藏缅语的谱系分类. (A classification of Tibeto-Burman languages in China). In: Tatsuo Nishida and Paul Kazuhisa Eguchi (eds.), Languages and history in East Asia: festschrift for Tatsuo Nishida on the occasion of his 60th birthday 61-73. Kyoto: Shokado.

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