Sino-Tibetan

This subproject looks at the distribution of verbal morphology in the Sino-Tibetan languages, which are spread in a large area from the Himalayas down to Northern Southeast Asia and eastwards to the Pacific coast. Sino-Tibetan languages exhibit considerable internal diversity in the verbal morphology, with a tendency towards highly complex paradigms in the Western languages and predominantly isolating structures in the East. With written traditions going back several centuries (e.g. in the case of Tibetan, Burmese, Tangut (Xīxià), Newar, Manipuri, Yí) or even three millennia (Chinese), as well as well documented histories in a number of cases, the Sino-Tibetan language family falls somewhere in between the European and South American cases in terms of the depth and density of data available for generalizations and modeling. The subproject will thus benefit both from the well-documented test-bed cases available for Celtic and Romance and the comparison with the South American situation, with which it shares many parallels, not the least in terms of a severe under-documentation of some of its subbranches.

The subproject thus fits well in the overall project and is bound to yield relevant insights into the historical distribution of morphology and its interaction with (non-Euclidian) space, as modelled by the methods group. The availability of historiographical traditions on at least some of the Sino-Tibetan peoples, their movements and interactions with linguistic neighbors, is crucial in investigating the spread of morphology as either language internal or contact-induced developments. The value of historiography – as well as population genetics – for the calibration of linguistic data in space and time warrants close comparison with similar types of documentation available for Indo-European languages.