Why does SIno-TIbetan language group share so few cognates when compared to the Indo-European language systems?

Jul 2014
1,660
world
I have been wondering about this problem. How come Indo European language system share so many common cognates while Sino TIbetan so few ? Why does almost 500 Sino-Tibetan Languages lack the common origin story of great flood like the Indo Europeans?

Why does Chinese language have tones ? Why does old Tibetan sound likes mongol/Turkic ?
Why is TIbetan grammatically more like hindi than Mandarin or Burmese?

I would like linguists of this great forum shed a light on this
 
Sep 2016
629
天下
Simple, the time depth. Proto-Indo-European estimated to have been spoken somewhere between 2000-4000 BCE, Proto-Sino-Tibetan is somewhere between 4000-7000 BCE. That's millenia of developments, vocabulary replacements, phonetical shifts. Compare the Classical Tibetan and Modern Tibetan (a time depth ~1000 years), or the reconstructions of Han Chinese with Modern Chinese (a time depth ~2000 years) and see the massive amount of changes. Now, multiple them times 3-4 and you see that there's just too much room for change.

Why does almost 500 Sino-Tibetan Languages lack the common origin story of great flood like the Indo Europeans?
Not every culture of IE has the great flood origin story, actually in many of them it has been brough by Christianity. China has such myth like also many non-IE cultures.

Why does Chinese language have tones ?
Tones are often a secondary development, basically syllables with certain vocalic segments at some point were pronounced higher, or lower than others, but the tone wasn't phonemic yet. At some point the vocalic segment in question disappeared, but the tone remained. In the case of the Chinese the disappearance of the final consonants was the trigger for the tonogenesis.

Why does old Tibetan sound likes mongol/Turkic ?
No connection, that's just your perception. For me modern Tibetan sounds nothing like Mongol and Old Tibetan looks ever more exotic with all the consonantal clusters.

Why is TIbetan grammatically more like hindi than Mandarin or Burmese?
My knowledge of Tibetan grammar is exactly zero, but couldn't it be due to the proximity and cultural influence of Indic languages (esp. Sanskrit)? It's not unimaginable for languages to borrow grammatical features, though it's not as common as vocabulary.
 
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Jul 2014
1,660
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"Simple, the time depth. Proto-Indo-European estimated to have been spoken somewhere between 2000-4000 BCE, Proto-Sino-Tibetan is somewhere between 4000-7000 BCE. That's millenia of developments, vocabulary replacements, phonetical shifts. Compare the Classical Tibetan and Modern Tibetan (a time depth ~1000 years), or the reconstructions of Han Chinese with Modern Chinese (a time depth ~2000 years) and see the massive amount of changes. Now, multiple them times 3-4 and you see that there's just too much room for change."


Good point.


No connection, that's just your perception. For me modern Tibetan sounds nothing like Mongol and Old Tibetan looks ever more exotic with all the consonantal clusters.

Modern Amdo TIbetan (closest to the old Tibetan) sounds lot like like Mongol. That's one of the three big TIbetan dialects.

Amdo dialect.

All three big TIbetan dialects with many more Plateau dialects and languages


My knowledge of Tibetan grammar is exactly zero, but couldn't it be due to the proximity and cultural influence of Indic languages (esp. Sanskrit)? It's not unimaginable for languages to borrow grammatical features, though it's not as common as vocabulary.

I used to think so too but Gyalrong TIbetan also has the same grammar structure like Hindi and Gyalrong is the oldest and most isolated TIbetan language.
 
Sep 2016
629
天下
Modern Amdo TIbetan (closest to the old Tibetan) sounds lot like like Mongol. That's one of the three big TIbetan dialects.
Again, I have knowledge of Amdo Tibetan, but isn't this region an area where Turkic and Mongolic peoples settled? Since at least Tuyuhun kingdom there was a continuity of non-Tibetic peoples living in the region.

I also wonder what makes you think they sound similar. Do you hear similar words, phonemic realisation of sounds is similar, or maybe phonotactics match?
I used to think so too but Gyalrong TIbetan also has the same grammar structure like Hindi and Gyalrong is the oldest and most isolated TIbetan language.
Could you give an example of what do you mean by grammar structure?
 
Jul 2014
1,660
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Again, I have knowledge of Amdo Tibetan, but isn't this region an area where Turkic and Mongolic peoples settled? Since at least Tuyuhun kingdom there was a continuity of non-Tibetic peoples living in the region.

I also wonder what makes you think they sound similar. Do you hear similar words, phonemic realisation of sounds is similar, or maybe phonotactics match?

Could you give an example of what do you mean by grammar structure?
Among the TIbetan languages in PRC, Amdo TIbetan is closest to the pronunciation of the old tibetan (empire period tibetan). Lhasa TIbetan is farthest from the old Tibetan. Kham Tibetan is in between. Lhasa TIbetan doesn't use most of the consonants of the old Tibetan while Amdo TIbetan does.

By the similar grammar structure between Hindu and TIbetan .. I mean the syntax is same. the future,past, present tense are same. I am not a linguist so i don't have proper understanding of this subject so please bear with me if I am wrong.

For example in english : Today the weather is good. lets all go and have fun.

Translation In:

TIbetan : Dherin namshi kyipo dun. Ngazo tsoma cham ga dron.

HIndi: Aaj mausam accha hai. hum sab ghumne chalte hain.

Literal translation in English: Today weather good is. we all fun going.

TIbetan and Hindi words mean the same thing and is in the same word order.
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
5,076
India
Among the TIbetan languages in PRC, Amdo TIbetan is closest to the pronunciation of the old tibetan (empire period tibetan). Lhasa TIbetan is farthest from the old Tibetan. Kham Tibetan is in between. Lhasa TIbetan doesn't use most of the consonants of the old Tibetan while Amdo TIbetan does.

By the similar grammar structure between Hindu and TIbetan .. I mean the syntax is same. the future,past, present tense are same. I am not a linguist so i don't have proper understanding of this subject so please bear with me if I am wrong.

For example in english : Today the weather is good. lets all go and have fun.

Translation In:

TIbetan : Dherin namshi kyipo dun. Ngazo tsoma cham ga dron.

HIndi: Aaj mausam accha hai. hum sab ghumne chalte hain.

Literal translation in English: Today weather good is. we all fun going.

TIbetan and Hindi words mean the same thing and is in the same word order.
But Hindi and Sanskrit don't share similar grammar with other IE languages and phonology is quite unique. Hindi is far closer to Dravidian languages of South India particularly Telugu and Kannada than to even Persian. Flood story most likely originated from Mesopotamia and taken by other cultures.

But I am surprised with the similarity of Tibetan language with Hindi. Although Tibetan uses a Brahmic script similar to Hindi of India or Thai or Cambodian in South East Asia.
 
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Jul 2014
1,660
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But Hindi and Sanskrit don't share similar grammar with other IE languages and phonology is quite unique. Hindi is far closer to Dravidian languages of South India particularly Telugu and Kannada than to even Persian. Flood story most likely originated from Mesopotamia and taken by other cultures.

But I am surprised with the similarity of Tibetan language with Hindi. Although Tibetan uses a Brahmic script similar to Hindi of India or Thai or Cambodian in South East Asia.
I am not saying Sanskrit and other Indo European languages have similar grammar. My previous post shows how English and Hindi have different word order.

and yes I too am surprised by the similarities between Tibetan and Hindi.
 
Mar 2013
1,082
Breakdancing on the Moon.
Of course Sanskrit and other IE languages have similarities in grammar. To a startling degree in some instances even given their shared familial origins (formation of the past tenses for e.g). Please don't **** up another thread with his nonsense...

@songtsen , this is actually a really interesting question that has generated a lot of interesting debates. A couple of things I have gleaned from experts in this field over the years:

1) Indo-European is a bad comparandum, not just due to its time-depth (though most proto-languages with the exception of Afro-Asiatic have a similar putative time depth), but because the PIE descendants are so transparently close.

Furthermore, IE has received the bulk of attention from experts. We also have a staggering amount of info since PIE languages have a mixture of *very early* testimony (Anatolian), competent grammatical traditions (Greek, Latin, Sanskrit) and a good, broad, early attestation (with the exception of Baltic and Albanian). The evidence, as well as the critical attention, has been better.

2) Sino-Tibetan isn't terribly secure as a language family. Even if you look at the wiki (unless it's been heavily edited since I last looked), there are notable dissenters and people proposing different hypotheses. Yes, some of these lack the data and a fair few are politically driven, but there is enough variance and complexity in our data sets to warrant caution.

The Sinitic element is a lot more secure than the Tibetan in this instance.

If you can, look up the work of Christopher Beckwith on this. I remember him being both eloquent and fair handed.

Hopefully we'll get an expert coming along, because this is a really interesting question.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,688
I don't know much about Sino-Tibetan languages. However, the flood story was particularly spread by the Bible, which has origins that are semitic, not Indoeuropean. It may have originated elsewhere in the mideast. It also may have been based on a real flood, perhaps caused by the end of the ice age.

My understanding is Sanskrit and Hindi are Indoeuropean languages, but heavily influenced by Dravidian languages. Spanish for example is Latin based, but has large numbers of pre-Indoeuropean Basque-like words, as well as pre-Indoeuropean influence on vowel sounds etc. It also has large numbers of Celtic and Arabic words. English has Germanic structure with large numbers of French and Latin words.
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,906
New Delhi, India
Don't forget the 'flood by snow' as in Avesta, however outlandish it may seem. Tribal memory spans millenniums.