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Linguistic areas of specialty



Languages of the Tibeto-Burman area



The Tibeto-Burman family

The Tibeto-Burman family(1) comprises approximately three hundred languages, often little described, and of which a majority are in danger of rapid extinction. Along with the Chinese languages, these languages make up the large family known as Sino-Tibetan. They are spoken over a vast region covering northern India, southern China and Tibet, Burma, part of Thailand, and fringes of Laos and Vietnam..

The Tibeto-Burman languages are spoken in contact with all the large Asian linguistic groups: along with Chinese, the Indo-European languages of India and Nepal, the Taï languages, and the Austro-Asiatic languages (Mon-Khmer and Munda).

Brief presentation of the family (pdf)


Brief survey of recent and current work


Research and teaching

Case studies, of various points in the domain, Tibeto-Burman languages or contact languages; have been carried out over the last thirty years by members of the Lacito.

These studies were the subject matter for an annual Master seminary until 2012.

Past lecture
  • 13 May 2008
    Mark Post (La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia) - Tyranny of the trochee: The phonology and grammar of Galo "words"
    "Words" may be independently defined and identified in Galo (Tibeto-Burman > Tani) according to relatively consistent and functionally well-motivated sets of phonological and grammatical criteria. The problem is that these criteria very often fail to converge upon identification of the same formal unit; instead, we often find grammatical "words" which consist of two phonological "words", and phonological "words" which consist of two grammatical "words", etc. The resulting mismatch between "phonological words" and "grammatical words" in Galo is argued to be theoretically non-trivial, in that its existence is capable of explaining a variety of otherwise seemingly disparate facts in the synchronic and diachronic organization of Galo grammar. The facts from Galo thus support a view of language in which "word" is independently defined in phonological and grammatical terms, and in which neither type of "word" necessarily corresponds to (or is projected by) the other. Although there might be said to exist a very generalized functional pressure towards "unification" of "phonological words" and "grammatical words", such a pressure would not be expressible as a formal constraint on language grammar.


Some useful links

Research groups:

Personal web pages



(1)The classification of languages into families or groups at different levels rests on the hypothesis of the existence of closer genetic relationships between the languages of the family or group than between any one of them with languages from another family or group. This relationship is evaluated using the methodology of historical and comparative linguistics, and is ideally based upon presumably inherited (and not borrowed) innovated traits for each group, to the exclusion of all others.
Concerning groups at a higher level, such as Tibeto-Burman or Sino-Tibetan, specialists are not unanimous as to the existing classifications. More detailed work on each of the sub-groups is necessary in order to validate all of the groups. The term Tibeto-Burman family is thus used here empirically, for the sake of convenience, to designate the category of minority languages, members of the large super-Sino-Tibetan family which do not belong to the Chinese branch which has ever held the attention of specialists because of its predominant political status. (to up)

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