The Kra–Dai languages (also known as Tai–Kadai, Daic and Kadai) are a language family of tonal languages found in southern China, Northeast India and Southeast Asia. They include Thai and Lao, the national languages of Thailand and Laos respectively. Around 93 million people speak Kra–Dai languages, 60% of whom speak Thai. Ethnologue lists 95 languages in the family, with 62 of these being in the Tai branch.
Genetic and linguistic analysis show great homogeneity between Kra-Dai speaking people in Thailand.
|Tai–Kadai, Daic, Kadai|
|Southern China, Hainan Island,|
Indochina and Northeast India
|Linguistic classification||One of the world's primary language families|
|ISO 639-2 / 5||tai|
The name "Kra–Dai" was proposed by Weera Ostapirat (2000), as Kra and Dai are the reconstructed autonyms of the Kra and Tai branches respectively. "Kra–Dai" has since been used by the majority of specialists working on Southeast Asian linguistics, including Norquest (2007), Pittayaporn (2009), Baxter & Sagart (2014), and Enfield & Comrie (2015).
The name "Tai–Kadai" is used in many references, as well as Ethnologue and Glottolog, but Ostapirat (2000) and others suggest that it is problematic and confusing, preferring the name "Kra–Dai" instead. The name comes from an obsolete bifurcation of the family into two branches, Tai and Kadai, which had first been proposed by Paul K. Benedict (1942). In 1942, Paul K. Benedict placed three Kra languages (Gelao, Laqua (Qabiao) and Lachi) together with Hlai in a group that he called "Kadai", from ka, meaning "person" in Gelao and Laqua (Qabiao), and Dai, a form of a Hlai autonym. Benedict's (1942) "Kadai" group was based on his observation that Kra and Hlai languages have Austronesian-like numerals. However, this classification is now universally rejected as obsolete after Ostapirat (2000) demonstrated the coherence of the Kra branch, which does not subgroup with the Hlai branch as Benedict (1942) had proposed. "Kadai" is sometimes used to refer to the entire Kra–Dai family, including by Solnit (1988). Adding to the confusion, some other references restrict the usage of "Kadai" to only the Kra branch of the family.
Kra–Dai consists of at least five well established branches, namely Kra, Kam–Sui, Tai, Be and Hlai (Ostapirat 2005:109).
Kra–Dai languages that are not securely classified, and may constitute independent Kra-Dai branches, include the following.
Kra–Dai languages of mixed origins are:
This classification is used by Ethnologue, though by 2009 Lakkia was made a third branch of Kam–Tai and Biao was moved into Kam–Sui.
Weera Ostapirat (2005:108) suggests the possibility of Kra and Kam–Sui being grouped together as Northern Kra–Dai, and Hlai with Tai as Southern Kra–Dai. Norquest (2007) has further updated this classification to include Lakkia and Be. Norquest notes that Lakkia shares some similarities with Kam–Sui, while Be shares some similarities with Tai. Norquest (2007:15) notes that Be shares various similarities with Northern Tai languages in particular. Following Ostapirat, Norquest adopts the name Kra–Dai for the family as a whole. The following tree of Kra–Dai is from Norquest (2007:16).
Additionally, Norquest (2007) also proposes a reconstruction for Proto-Southern Kra–Dai.
The Kra–Dai languages were formerly considered to be part of the Sino-Tibetan family, but outside China they are now classified as an independent family. They contain large numbers of words that are similar in Sino-Tibetan languages. However, these are seldom found in all branches of the family and do not include basic vocabulary, indicating that they are old loan words.
Several Western scholars have presented suggestive evidence that Kra–Dai is related to or a branch of the Austronesian language family. There are a number of possible cognates in the core vocabulary. Among proponents, there is yet no agreement as to whether they are a sister group to Austronesian in a family called Austro-Tai, a backmigration from Taiwan to the mainland, or a later migration from the Philippines to Hainan during the Austronesian expansion.
The Austric proposal suggests a link between Austronesian and the Austroasiatic languages. Echoing part of Benedict's conception of Austric, who added Kra–Dai-Japanese and Hmong–Mien to the proposal. Kosaka (2002) argued specifically for a Miao–Dai family.
In China, they are called Zhuang–Dong languages and are generally considered to be related to Sino-Tibetan languages along with the Miao–Yao languages. It is still a matter of discussion among Chinese scholars whether Kra languages such as Gelao, Qabiao and Lachi can be included in Zhuang–Dong, since they lack the Sino-Tibetan similarities that are used to include other Zhuang–Dong languages in Sino-Tibetan.
Vovin (2014) proposed that the location of the Japonic Urheimat (linguistic homeland) is in Southern China. Vovin argues for typological evidence that Proto-Japanese may have been a monosyllabic, SVO syntax and isolating language, which are also characteristic of Tai–Kadai languages. The following lexical comparisons between Proto-Japonic and Proto-Tai are cited from Vovin (2014).
|Proto-Tai||Tone in proto-Tai|
|Side||*pia||H||*Ɂbaïŋ ?< OC *bʕâŋ||C1|
|Aunt||*-pa in *wo-n-pa||H||*paa 'elder sister of a parent'||C1|
|Wife, woman||*mia||L||*mia 'wife'||A2|
secondary voicing in Tai
(space & time)
|Edge||*pa, cf. also *pasi||H, HH||*faŋ
|Insert||*pak- 'wear shoes, trousers'||H||*pak||D1S|
|Mountain||*wo 'peak'||L||*buo||A2, A1 in NT|
|Split||*sak-||H||*čaak 'be separated'||D1L, š- in NT|
|Suck||*sup-||H||*ču[u]p onomatopoetic?||D1S/L, š- in NT|
|Get soaked||*sim-||H||*čim 'dip into' ?< Chin.||B1, C1, š- in NT|
|Slander||*sə/o-sir- cf. nono-sir-||H/L?, but
|*sɔɔ 'slander, indicate'||A1|
|Cold||*sam-pu- cf. sam-as- 'cool it',
samë- 'get cool'
|L||NT *ǯam > šam||C2|
but proto-Kam-Sui *to,
pace Thurgood's *tu (1988:211)
|Wing||*pa > Old Japanese pa 'wing, feather'||H||proto-Kam-Sui *pwa||C1|
|Inside||*naka < *na-ka 'inside-place'||LH||proto-Tai *ʔd-naï||SW, Sukhothai A2,|
CT, NT A1
No full reconstruction of Proto-Kra–Dai has been published to date.