Author Topic: Why have Sino-Tibetan languages controversy?  (Read 332 times)

Offline giselberga

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Why have Sino-Tibetan languages controversy?
« on: June 26, 2018, 07:19:46 AM »
Ancient Sino-Tibetan language can’t know how to sound a word
Why have Sino-Tibetan languages controversy?
And what is origin and history of Sino-Tibetan language?
« Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 07:21:30 AM by giselberga »

Offline panini

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Re: Why have Sino-Tibetan languages controversy?
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2018, 09:02:03 AM »
I don't understand your question, but will take a stab at guessing what you mean. In general, historical reconstructions are controversial because they impute the existence of a language which has not been directly observed, and ascribe numerous properties to the language. For many people, hypothesizing rather than merely observing and describing is a controversial practice. So there is a common practice of objecting to any reconstruction, saying "But that is just a hypothesis, we don't really know". I'm entirely unsympathetic to that position per se, but I am sympathetic to the position that some methodologies are thin ice.

As for the origin of Sino-Tibetan, there is no known origin, though obviously if ST is legitimate proto-language (and I have no reason to doubt it), it had some historical precursors stretching back for many millenia. It's just that we have no idea what the antecedent states looked like, and no good idea what existing languages, if any, ST might be related to. There are various random connections drawn between Chinese and other language groups, for example "Sino-Austronesian", or attempts to sweep up all of the loose ends like Etruscan, Burushaski, Sumerian, Basque and put them in a bucket with Na-Dene and Sino-Tibetan. The broad strokes of the subsequent development of ST is somewhat known, where the primary split is between Sino- and Tibeto-Burman, but all concrete sub-classifications are in fact controversial, as is often the case for reconstructions with such a great time depth. Ultimately, the problem lies in the fact that historical linguistics aims to create branching trees where X irrevocably divides into Y plus Z, but in reality, X (usually) differentiates into Y and Z but there are still social connections between Y and Z, and then further branching takes place but again Y1 is in contact with Z2 so they can share linguistic innovations that aren't shared with Y2 and Z1. In other words, the problem arises because tree-type reconstruction implies complete separation, when in fact the language (and people) may still remain in close contact. There's no graphic metaphor that presents language relatedness as a continuous function.