Tibeto-Kanauri languages

Last updated
Bodic, Bodish–Himalayish
Western Tibeto-Burman
Nepal, Tibet, and neighboring areas
Linguistic classification


  • Tibeto-Kanauri
Glottolog bodi1256 [1]

The Tibeto-Kanauri languages, also called Bodic, Bodish–Himalayish, and Western Tibeto-Burman, are a proposed intermediate level of classification of the Sino-Tibetan languages, centered on the Tibetic languages and the Kinnauri dialect cluster. The conception of the relationship, or if it is even a valid group, varies between researchers.

Sino-Tibetan languages Asian language family

The Sino-Tibetan languages, in a few sources also known as Trans-Himalayan, are a family of more than 400 languages, second only to Indo-European in number of native speakers. The Sino-Tibetan languages with the most native speakers are the varieties of Chinese, Burmese, and the Tibetic languages. Other languages of the family are spoken in the Himalayas, the Southeast Asian Massif and the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Most have small speech communities in remote mountain areas and as such are poorly documented. Unlike Western linguists, Chinese linguists generally include Kra–Dai and Hmong-Mien languages within Sino-Tibetan.

Tibetic languages group of languages spoken by Tibetans in the Eastern Tibetan Plateau and in northern areas of the Indian subcontinent.

The Tibetic languages are a cluster of Tibeto-Burman languages descended from Old Tibetan, spoken across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent, including the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas in Baltistan, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. Classical Tibetan is a major regional literary language, particularly for its use in Buddhist literature.

Kinnauri language language

Kinnauri, also known as Kanauri, Kanor, Koonawur, or Kunawar, is a Sino-Tibetan dialect cluster centered on the Kinnaur district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.


Conceptions of Tibeto-Kanauri

Benedict (1972) originally posited the Tibeto-Kanauri aka Bodish–Himalayish relationship, but had a more expansive conception of Himalayish than generally found today, including Qiangic, Magaric, and Lepcha. Within Benedict's conception, Tibeto-Kanauri is one of seven linguistic nuclei, or centers of gravity along a spectrum, within Tibeto-Burman languages. The center-most nucleus identified by Benedict is the Jingpho language (including perhaps the Kachin–Luic and Tamangic languages); other peripheral nuclei besides Tibeto-Kanauri include the Kiranti languages (Bahing–Vayu and perhaps the Newar language); the Tani languages; the Bodo–Garo languages and perhaps the Konyak languages); the Kukish languages (Kuki–Naga plus perhaps the Karbi language, the Meitei language and the Mru language); and the Burmish languages (Lolo-Burmese languages, perhaps also the Nung language and Trung). [3]

Qiangic, formerly known as Dzorgaic, is a group of related languages within the Sino-Tibetan language family. They are spoken mainly in Southwest China, including Sichuan, Tibet and Yunnan. Most Qiangic languages are distributed in the prefectures of Ngawa, Garzê, Ya'an, and Liangshan in Sichuan with some in northern Yunnan as well.

The Magar languages are a small proposed family of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Nepal, notably including Magar and Kham. (Ethnologue considers each to be a cluster of languages.) They are often classified as part of the Mahakiranti family, and Van Driem (2001) proposes that they are close relatives of Mahakiranti.

Lepcha language, or Róng language, is a Himalayish language spoken by the Lepcha people in Sikkim and parts of West Bengal, Nepal and Bhutan.

Matisoff (1978, 2003) largely follows Benedict's scheme, stressing the teleological value of identifying related characteristics over mapping detailed family trees in the study of Tibeto-Burman and Sino-Tibetan languages. Matisoff includes Bodish and West Himalayish with the Lepcha language as a third branch. He unites these at a higher level with Mahakiranti as Himalayish. [4] [5]

Tibeto-Burman languages language group

The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non-Sinitic members of the Sino-Tibetan language family, over 400 of which are spoken throughout the highlands of Southeast Asia as well as certain parts of East Asia and South Asia. Around 60 million people speak Tibeto-Burman languages, around half of whom speak Burmese, and 13% of whom speak Tibetic languages. The name derives from the most widely spoken of these languages, namely Burmese and the Tibetic languages . These languages also have extensive literary traditions, dating from the 12th and 7th centuries respectively. Most of the other languages are spoken by much smaller communities, and many of them have not been described in detail.

The Mahakiranti or Maha-Kiranti languages are a proposed intermediate level of classification of the Sino-Tibetan languages, consisting of the Kiranti languages and neighbouring languages thought to be closely related to them. Researchers disagree on which languages belong in Mahakiranti, or even whether Mahakiranti is a valid group. The group was originally proposed by George van Driem, who retracted his proposal in 2003 after a field study in Bhutan.

Van Driem (2001) notes that the Bodish, West Himalayish, and Tamangic languages (but not Benedict's other families) appear to have a common origin. [6]

Bodish, named for the Tibetan ethnonym Bod, is a proposed grouping consisting of the Tibetic languages and associated Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Tibet, North India, Nepal, Bhutan, and North Pakistan. It has not been demonstrated that all these languages form a clade, characterized by shared innovations, within Sino-Tibetan.

The West Himalayish languages, also known as Almora and Kanauric, are a family of Sino-Tibetan languages centered in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and across the border into Nepal. LaPolla (2003) proposes that the West Himalayish languages may be part of a larger "Rung" group.

The Tamangic languages, TGTM languages, or West Bodish languages, are a family of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in the Himalayas of Nepal. They are called West Bodish by Bradley (1997).

Bradley (1997) takes much the same approach but words things differently: he incorporates West Himalayish and Tamangic as branches within his "Bodish", which thus becomes close to Tibeto-Kanauri. This and his Himalayan family[ same as Mahakiranti? ] constitute his Bodic family. [7]

Related Research Articles

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Indosphere is a term coined by the linguist James Matisoff for areas of Indian linguistic and cultural influence in Southeast Asia. It is commonly used in areal linguistics in contrast with Sinosphere.

Languages of Bhutan languages of a geographic region

There are two dozen languages of Bhutan, all members of the Tibeto-Burman language family except for Nepali, which is an Indo-Aryan language, and Bhutanese Sign Language. Dzongkha, the national language, is the only language with a native literary tradition in Bhutan, though Lepcha and Nepali are literary languages in other countries. Other non-Bhutanese minority languages are also spoken along Bhutan's borders and among the primarily Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa community in South and East Bhutan.

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The Sal languages are a branch of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in eastern India, parts of Bangladesh, and Burma.

Bodo–Garo languages

The Bodo–Garo languages are a branch of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Northeast India, the Jhapa district of Nepal, and parts of Bangladesh. The name Bodo is not related with the Tibetan ethnonym bod, which is the basis of the names Bodic and Bodish.

Lolo-Burmese languages language family

The Lolo-Burmese languages of Burma and Southern China form a coherent branch of the Sino-Tibetan family.

The East Bodish languages are a small group of non-Tibetic Bodish languages spoken in eastern Bhutan and adjacent areas of Tibet and India. They include:

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ʼOle language Tibeto-Burman language

ʼOle, also called ʼOlekha or Black Mountain Monpa, is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by about 1,000 people in the Black Mountains of Wangdue Phodrang and Trongsa Districts in western Bhutan. The term ʼOle refers to a clan of speakers.

Manang, also called Manangba, Manange, Manang Ke, Nyishang, Nyishangte and Nyishangba, is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken in Nepal. Native speakers refer to the language as ŋyeshaŋ, meaning 'our language'. It is one of half a dozen languages in the Tamangic branch of the Sino-Tibetan family. Manang and its most closely related languages are often written as TGTM in literature, referring to Tamang, Gurung, Thakali, and Manangba, due to the high degree of similarity in the linguistic characteristics of the languages. The language is unwritten and almost solely spoken within the Manang District, leading it to be classified as threatened, with the number of speakers continuing to decline. Suspected reasons for the decline include parents not passing down the language to their children, in order to allow for what they see as more advanced communication with other groups of people, and thus gain more opportunities. Due to the proximity of the district to Tibet, as well as various globally widespread languages being introduced into the area, use of the native language is declining in favor of new languages, which are perceived to aid in the advancement of the people and region.

Mruic or Mru–Hkongso is a small group of Sino-Tibetan languages consisting of two poorly attested languages, Mru and Anu-Hkongso. Their relationship within Sino-Tibetan is unclear.

The Newaric languages are a proposed group of Sino-Tibetan languages. George van Driem (2003) and Mark Turin (2004) argue that Newar and Baram–Thangmi share many features with each other, and thus group with each other.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bodic". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Thurgood, Graham; LaPolla, Randy J. (ed.s) (2003). Sino-Tibetan Languages. London: Routledge. ISBN   0-7007-1129-5.
  3. Benedict, Paul K. (1972). Sino-Tibetan: a Conspectus. Princeton-Cambridge Studies in Chinese Linguistics. 2. CUP Archive. pp. 4–11.
  4. Matisoff, James A. (1978). Variational semantics in Tibeto-Burman: The "Organic" Approach to Linguistic Comparison. Occasional papers, Wolfenden Society on Tibeto-Burman Linguistics. 6. Institute for the Study of Human Issues. ISBN   0-915980-85-1.
  5. Matisoff, James A. (2003). Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction. University of California Publications in Linguistics. 135. University of California Press. pp. 1–9. ISBN   0-520-09843-9.
  6. van Driem, George (2001). Languages of the Himalayas: an Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region: Containing an Introduction to the Symbiotic Theory of Language. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Zweite Abteilung, Indien. 10. BRILL. ISBN   90-04-10390-2.
  7. Bradley, David (1997). Tibeto-Burman Languages of the Himalayas. Occasional Papers in South-East Asian linguistics. Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. ISBN   0-85883-456-1.

Further reading