Tibeto-Burman Languages of China
This introductory course aims to provide participants with knowledge of the characteristic features of Tibeto-Burman (TB) languages spoken in China.
Tibeto-Burman languages are one of the two major branches of the Sino-Tibetan language family (Benedict 1972; Matisoff 2003; Thurgood & LaPolla 2017). Spoken over a vast area — including parts of East and South Asia and peninsular Southeast Asia — they are traditionally analyzed as belonging to the Sinosphere and Indosphere, that is, the Chinese and Indian spheres of cultural and linguistic influences.
The course takes a closer look at a subset of TB languages of the Sinosphere, defined by their geographical location (China) and their historical and present ties with Sinitic languages. The goals of the course are:
In the first five meetings, we will start with an overview of the relevant groups (Tibetic, Lolo-Burmese, Na, Qiangic, Baic, Jingpo-Nungish-Luish), and unclassified languages such as Tujia or Caijia. We will focus on their distribution, typological profiles, and contact history.
In the second five meetings, we will focus on a number of characteristic features shared across local groups, including tone, differential subject and object marking, evidentiality and epistemicity marking, verb serialization, and topic and focus strategies.
The course will include both topicalized lectures and class discussions based on daily reading assignments, listening to recording excerpts of a number of TB languages, and analysis of interlinearized texts.
Level and Requirements
There are no requirements for this course, except a good knowledge of basic linguistic concepts.
Selected texts from Tibeto-Burman linguistic sources, including language sketches, phonology, morphology, syntax, sociolinguistics, contact studies, and historical linguistics. Reading materials will be provided in class.