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Sino-Tibetan Languages

The Sino-Tibetan languages are spoken in China, Southeast Asia, Taiwan and a small section of India.
Cantonese Linguistics

The extent of the Sino-Tibetan (ST) family is limited to China proper, mainland Southeast Asia, Taiwan and a small portion of India. But it includes the language that has more speakers than any other, Mandarin Chinese, with over 1.1 billion speakers. Another important ST language is Cantonese, which is spoken in Hong Kong and many Chinese communities around the world. The genetic affiliation between the Sinitic (Chinese) languages is readily apparent, but their association with the other languages of Asia has only started to become clear in the past fifty years. Linguists once believed that Thai was part of the ST family, but most experts now place Thai in a family of its own that includes Shan (Tai Yaai), Lao and Chuang. Vietnamese, a language that sounds remarkably like some dialects of Chinese, is not an ST language, although it was strongly influenced by Chinese and has a large stock of Chinese loanwords. Vietnamese is now considered part of the Mon-Khmer family.

Anthropologists believe that early Sino-Tibetan speakers lived on the Tibetan plateau and in western China. Early in their history, ST speakers divided into two groups: the proto Tibeto-Burman speakers and the Sinitic speakers. They later migrated down the great river valleys into their present locations. The ST languages with the largest number of speakers are Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese. Other important languages are Burmese, Tibetan and Karen. Karen has about 5 million speakers, most of whom live along the mountainous border between Thailand and Burma. Click here to see a map (200KB) of where the Karen people live.

The Sino-Tibetan languages are tonal languages. Each word is pronounced at a certain relative pitch to distinguish it from words that are otherwise identical. The classic example is the word "ma" in Mandarin which can mean "mother", "hemp", "horse", or "to swear&nbsp" depending on how it is pronounced.

 

Sino-Tibetan Languages
English Mandarin Cantonese Tibetan Burmese Karen
I wo ngo nga nga ye
you ni nei kayrang nang ne
he ta keui kho, mo su che
who shei bin su badhu  
here zhe ni day dih yo
where na bin kaba beh be
not bu m ma ma, bu  
hand shou sau lagpa let chu
heart xin sam nying hnaloun tha
breast ru jyu pangkho nui nu
eye mu muk mig myet muka
ear er yi âmjo naywet neku
English Mandarin Cantonese Tibetan Burmese Karen
nose bi bei nâkug nhakaun ne-khede
mouth kou hau kha basat leme
face lian min dong myat muka
foot jiao geok kangpa chedaut kha
skin pi pei shapag aye pe
head tou tau gaw gaun ko
bone ku gaak rugu ayo kwi
man nan naam mi, -pho yaut-cha bokho
woman nu neui kyimen, -mo -ma -mu
child hai haai pugu kale buje-po
name ming meng ming na-meh mi
English Mandarin Cantonese Tibetan Burmese Karen
bird niao niu cha hnget chuba
fish yu jyu nya nga da
water shui seoi chu ye chi
house jia ga nang ein do, hi
rain yu yu charpa mo we
sun ri yat nyima ne lemu
moon yue yut dawa la le
star xing sing karma kyeh she
sky tien tin namkha mui mo-kho
life sheng sang so, tse athet  
death si sei shisong the thi
day ri yat nyinma ne hi
English Mandarin Cantonese Tibetan Burmese Karen
night ye ye gongda nya he
year nian nin lo hnit de
hill shan shan ri goun, toun kho-lo
road lu lou lam lan kle
stone shi sek do chaut lo
earth di dei sa mye chiga
sea hai hoi gyamtso pinleh pale
island dao dou tsoling chun chun
fire huo fo me mi mi
black hei hak nâgpo ameh thi
white bai bark kapo apyu bu
English Mandarin Cantonese Tibetan Burmese Karen
big da daai chempo chi do
small xiao siu chunchun the shi
good hao hou yagpo kaun wi
new xin san sapa thit the
to see jian gin tongwa myin chi
to eat chi sik sawa sa a
to drink he yam tungwa thaut o
to kill sha saat saywa sat  
one yi yat chig tit to
two er yi nyi hnit ki
three san sam sum thoun tho
four si sei shi le lu
five wu ng nga nga ye
English Mandarin Cantonese Tibetan Burmese Karen

Notes:

For the most part I have ignored tone markings since they are difficult to represent in the basic HTML character set.

The Karen words are from the Bwe dialect.

I have simplified the Karen and Burmese spellings to make the words easier for English speakers to read.

I have chosen to use the names "Burma" and "Burmese" as they are the names preferred by Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's National League for Democracy.

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