Eastern Tibeto-Burman
China, Burma
Linguistic classificationSino-Tibetan
  • Burmo-Qiangic

The Burmo-Qiangic or Eastern Tibeto-Burman languages are a proposed family of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in Southwest China and Myanmar. It consists of the Lolo-Burmese and Qiangic branches, including the extinct Tangut language.


Guillaume Jacques & Alexis Michaud (2011)[1] argue for a Burmo-Qiangic branch of Sino-Tibetan (Tibeto-Burman) with two primary subbranches, Qiangic and Lolo-Burmese. Similarly, David Bradley (2008)[2] proposes an Eastern Tibeto-Burman branch that includes Burmic (a.k.a. Lolo-Burmese) and Qiangic. Bradley notes that Lolo-Burmese and Qiangic share some unique lexical items, even though they are morphologically quite different; whereas all Lolo-Burmese languages are tonal and analytical, Qiangic languages are often non-tonal and possess agglutinative morphology. However, the position of Naic is unclear, as it has been grouped as Lolo-Burmese by Lama (2012), but as Qiangic by Jacques & Michaud (2011) and Bradley (2008).

Sun (1988) also proposed a similar classification that grouped Qiangic and Lolo-Burmese together.

Jacques' & Michaud's (2011) proposed tree is as follows.








Bradley's (2008) proposal is as follows. Note that Bradley calls Lolo-Burmese Burmic, which is not to be confused with Burmish, and calls Loloish Ngwi.

Eastern Tibeto‑Burman 




However, Chirkova (2012)[3] doubts that Qiangic is a valid genetic unit, and considers Ersu, Shixing, Namuyi, and Pumi all as separate Tibeto-Burman branches that are part of a Qiangic Sprachbund, rather than as part of a coherent Qiangic phylogenetic branch. This issue has also been further discussed by Yu (2012).[4]

Lee & Sagart (2008)[5] argue that Bai is a Tibeto-Burman language that has borrowed very heavily from Old Chinese. Lee & Sagart (2008) note that word relating to rice and pig agriculture tend to be non-Chinese, and that the genetic non-Chinese layer of Bai shows similarities with Proto-Loloish.


Yu (2012:206–207)[4] lists the following well-established coherent branches (including individual languages, in italics below) that could likely all fit into a wider Burmo-Qiangic group, in geographical order from north to south.

  1. (Baima) [possible Burmo-Qiangic substratum][6]
  2. Qiang
  3. rGyalrong
  4. Lavrung
  5. Ergong
  6. Choyo
  7. nDrapa
  8. Guiqiong
  9. Minyak
  10. Ersuic
  11. Namuyi
  12. Shixing
  13. Naish
  14. Prinmi
  15. Lolo-Burmese
  16. (Bai) [possible Burmo-Qiangic substratum][7]

Additionally, Tangut, now extinct, is generally classified as a Qiangic language.

Yu (2012:215-218)[4] notes that Ersuic and Naic languages could possibly group together, since they share many features with each other that are not found in Lolo-Burmese or other Qiangic groups.

Proto-language reconstructions for some of these branches include:

Lexical evidence

Jacques & Michaud (2011)[1][11] list the following lexical items as likely Burmo-Qiangic lexical innovations.

Gloss rGyalrong Tangut Na Proto-Naish Burmese Achang Hani
copula ŋu ŋwu2 ŋi˩˧ ? hnang2 - ŋɯ˧˩
star ʑŋgri gjịj1 kɯ˥ *kri kray2 khʐə˥ a˧˩gɯ˥
forget jmɯt mjɨ̣2 mv̩.phæL+MH *mi me1 ɲi˧˥ ɲi˥
be ill ngo < *ngaŋ ŋo2 gu˩ *go
flint ʁdɯrtsa - tse.miH *tsa
to hide nɤtsɯ - tsɯ˥ (Naxi) *tsu
to swallow mqlaʁ - ʁv̩˥ *NqU < *Nqak
dry spɯ - pv̩˧ *Spu
thick jaʁ laa1 lo˧˥ *laC2
jump mtsaʁ - tsh *tshaC2
winter qartsɯ tsur1 tsh *tshu ch3 hɔŋ˧˩ tshɔ˧˩ga̱˧
knee tə-mŋɑ (Situ) ŋwer2 ŋwɤ.koH *ŋwa
sun ʁmbɣi be2 bi˧ (Naxi) *bi

See also


  1. ^ a b c Jacques, Guillaume, and Alexis Michaud. 2011. "Approaching the historical phonology of three highly eroded Sino-Tibetan languages." Diachronica 28:468–498.
  2. ^ Bradley, David. 2008. The Position of Namuyi in Tibeto-Burman. Paper presented at Workshop on Namuyi, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 2008.
  3. ^ Chirkova, Katia (2012). "The Qiangic Subgroup from an Areal Perspective: A Case Study of Languages of Muli." In Languages and Linguistics 13(1):133–170. Taipei: Academia Sinica.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d Yu, Dominic. 2012. Proto-Ersuic. Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Linguistics.
  5. ^ Lee, Y.-J., & Sagart, L. (2008). No limits to borrowing: The case of Bai and Chinese. Diachronica, 25(3), 357–385.
  6. ^ Chirkova, Ekaterina. 2008. On the Position of Baima within Tibetan: A Look from Basic Vocabulary. Alexander Lubotsky, Jos Schaeken and Jeroen Wiedenhof. Rodopi, pp.23, 2008, Evidence and counter-evidence: Festschrift F. Kortlandt. <halshs-00104311>
  7. ^ Gong Xun (2015). How Old is the Chinese in Bái? Reexamining Sino-Bái under the Baxter-Sagart reconstruction. Paper presented at the Recent Advances in Old Chinese Historical Phonology workshop, SOAS, London.
  8. ^ a b Sims, Nathaniel. 2017. The suprasegmental phonology of proto-Rma (Qiang) in comparative perspective. Presented at the 50th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Beijing, China.
  9. ^ Matisoff, James A. (2003), Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-09843-5.
  10. ^ * Wang, Feng (2006). Comparison of languages in contact: the distillation method and the case of Bai. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series B: Frontiers in Linguistics III. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. ISBN 986-00-5228-X.
  11. ^ Jacques & Michaud (2011), appendix p.7