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Dated language phylogenies shed light on the ancestry of Sino-Tibetan

MPS-Authors
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Lai,  Yunfan
CALC, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Greenhill,  Simon J.
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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List,  Johann-Mattis
CALC, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Sagart, L., Jacques, G., Lai, Y., Ryder, R. J., Thouzeau, V., Greenhill, S. J., et al. (2019). Dated language phylogenies shed light on the ancestry of Sino-Tibetan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(21), 10317-10322. doi:10.1073/pnas.1817972116.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-8E3A-D
Abstract
Given its size and geographical extension, Sino-Tibetan is of the highest importance for understanding the prehistory of East Asia, and of neighboring language families. Based on a dataset of 50 Sino-Tibetan languages, we infer phylogenies that date the origin of the language family to around 7200 B.P., linking the origin of the language family with the late Cishan and the early Yangshao cultures.The Sino-Tibetan language family is one of the world’s largest and most prominent families, spoken by nearly 1.4 billion people. Despite the importance of the Sino-Tibetan languages, their prehistory remains controversial, with ongoing debate about when and where they originated. To shed light on this debate we develop a database of comparative linguistic data, and apply the linguistic comparative method to identify sound correspondences and establish cognates. We then use phylogenetic methods to infer the relationships among these languages and estimate the age of their origin and homeland. Our findings point to Sino-Tibetan originating with north Chinese millet farmers around 7200 B.P. and suggest a link to the late Cishan and the early Yangshao cultures.