Sino-Tibetan languages

Introduction

Sino-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. It is usually said to have three subfamilies: Tibeto-Burman, Chinese, and Tai, or Thai. One school of thought, however, assigns the Tai and Chinese languages to a single subfamily called Sino-Siamese or Sinitic. The classification of a number of the languages suggested for the Sino-Tibetan family and its various subfamilies is still unresolved, and more work must be done before general agreement is reached. Some linguists have even proposed a relationship between Sino-Tibetan and the Athabascan group of Native American languages (to which Navajo and Apache belong).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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