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.
Kra-Dai and Sino-Tibetan are often linked together by Chinese scholars, including by Luo (2008).
At least in Asia, the Kra–Dai languages are widely considered to be part of the Sino-Tibetan family, but still some western scholars wish to classify them as an independent family. They contain large numbers of words that are similar in Sino-Tibetan languages. But some western scholars claim that these are not always found and sometimes do not include basic vocabulary, leading them to believe that they are old loan words.
In China, they are called Zhuang–Dong languages (壮侗语系) and are generally considered to be related to Sino-Tibetan languages along with the Hmong–Mien 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. But the major branch of Zhuang-Dong called Kam-Thai (or 侗台语族) is accepted to be part of Sino-Tibetan.
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 back-migration from Taiwan to the mainland, or a later migration from the Philippines to Hainan during the Austronesian expansion. Benedict later added Japanese to the proposal.
Kosaka (2002) argued specifically for a Miao–Dai family. He argues that there is much evidence for a genetic relation between Hmong-Mien and Kra–Dai languages. He further suggests that similarities between Kra-Dai and Austronesian are because of later areal contact in coastal arear of eastern and southeastern China or an older ancestral relation (Proto-Eastasian).
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, although tentative reconstructions of many Proto-Kra–Dai roots have been attempted from time to time. Some Proto-Kra–Dai forms have been reconstructed by Benedict (1975) and Wu (2002). A reconstruction of Proto-Kam–Tai (i.e., a proposed grouping that contains all of Kra-Dai without Kra, Hlai, and Jiamao) has also been undertaken by Liang & Zhang (1996).
Weera Ostapirat (2018a) reconstructs disyllabic forms for Proto-Kra–Dai, rather than sesquisyllabic or purely monosyllabic forms. His Proto-Kra–Dai reconstructions also contains the finals *-c and *-l. Ostapirat (2018b:113) lists the following of his own Proto-Kra–Dai reconstructions.
|Thou (2.SG)||*isuː; amɤː|
The volume of cognates between Austronesian and Daic, notably in fundamental vocabulary, is such that they must be related. Borrowing can be excluded as an explanation
Austro-Tai, sometimes also Austro-Thai, is a hypothesis that the Austronesian and Kra–Dai language families have a common origin. Japonic languages are sometimes included as a third member.Related proposals include Austric (Wilhelm Schmidt 1906) and Sino-Austronesian (Laurent Sagart 2005b).Be language
Be (native pronunciation: [ʔɑŋ˧ɓe˧]), also known as Ong Be, Bê, or Vo Limgao (Chinese: 臨高; pinyin: Lín'gāo), is a language spoken by 600,000 people, 100,000 of them monolingual, on the north-central coast of Hainan Island, including the suburbs of the provincial capital Haikou. The speakers are being counted as part of "Han Chinese" nationality in census. According to Ethnologue, it is taught in primary schools.Biao language
The Biao language (Chinese: 标话; also known as Kang Bau or Kang Beu) is a Kra–Dai language (or perhaps three languages) spoken in southwestern Huaiji County and Fengkai County, Zhaoqing, Guangdong. Autonyms are kaːŋ˩ peu̯˥ and kaːŋ˩ paːu̯˥.Cun language
Cun is a Hlai language of Hainan Island. Lexical similarity with standard Hlai is 40%. The language has approximately 80,000 speakers, 47,200 of which are monolingual. Cun is a tonal language with 10 tones, used depending on whether a syllable is checked or unchecked.Hlai languages
The Hlai languages (Chinese: 黎语; pinyin: Lí yǔ) are a primary branch of the Kra–Dai language family spoken in the mountains of central and south-central Hainan in China, not to be confused with the colloquial name for the Leizhou branch of Min Chinese (Chinese: 黎话; pinyin: Lí huà). They include Cun, whose speakers are ethnically distinct. A quarter of Hlai speakers are monolingual. None of the Hlai languages had a writing system until the 1950s, when the Latin script was adopted for Ha.Jerold A. Edmondson
Jerold Alan Edmondson (born 1941) (Chinese name: 艾杰瑞 Aì Jiéruì) is an American linguist whose work spans four subdisciplines: historical and comparative linguistics, Asian linguistics, field linguistics, and phonetics. He is a leading specialist in Tai–Kadai languages of Asia, especially the Kam–Sui and Kra branches.Jiamao language
Jiamao (Chinese: 加茂; pinyin: Jiāmào, Jiamao; also 台 Tái or 塞 Sāi) is a language isolate spoken in southern Hainan, China. Jiamao speakers' autonym is tʰai1.Jizhao language
Jizhao (Chinese: 吉兆话) is an unclassified Kra-Dai language spoken in Jizhao Village 吉兆村, Tanba Town 覃巴镇, Wuchuan, Guangdong. It may be most closely related to Be. In Wuchuan, Jizhao is locally referred to as Haihua 海话, which is the term used elsewhere in Leizhou 雷州, Xuwen 徐闻, and Maoming 茂名 to refer to the local Minnan Chinese dialect of Leizhou.Kam–Sui languages
The Kam–Sui languages (Chinese: 侗水語支; pinyin: Dòng-Shǔi) are a branch of the Kra–Dai languages spoken by the Kam–Sui peoples. They are spoken mainly in eastern Guizhou, western Hunan, and northern Guangxi in southern China. Small pockets of Kam–Sui speakers are also found in northern Vietnam and Laos.Kam–Tai languages
The Kam–Tai languages, also called Dong–Tai (Chinese: 侗台语支) or Zhuang–Dong (Chinese: 壮侗语族) in China, are a proposed primary branch of the Kra–Dai language family. The Kam–Tai grouping is primarily used in China, including by the linguists Liang & Zhang (1996).
Liang & Zhang (1996) classify Kam–Sui, Be, and Tai together as the Dong-Tai 侗台 branch, due to the large number of lexical items shared by all three branches vis-a-vis the more divergent Kra (Chinese: Geyang 仡央) and Hlai (Chinese: Li 黎) branches. Liang & Zhang (1996) also propose a reconstruction of Proto-Kam–Tai.
A Kam–Tai group consisting of Kam–Sui and Tai is accepted by Edmondson & Solnit (1988). Hansell (1988) considers Be to be a sister of the Tai branch based on shared vocabulary, and proposes a Be–Tai grouping within Kam–Tai.
However, following Ostapirat (2005), scholars outside China now usually do not make use of the Kam–Tai grouping.Khamti language
Khamti language ( Khamti : လိꩱ့်တဲးၵမ်းတီႈ (Khamti written), Khamti : ၵၢမ်းတဲးၵံးတီႈ (Khamti spoken) Shan ၶၢမ်းတႆးၶမ်းတီႈ , [kháːm táj], or Shan: ၽႃႇသႃႇတႆးၶမ်းတီႈ, [pʰàːsʰàː táj]; Burmese: ခန္တီးရှမ်းဘာသာ, [ʃáɴ bàðà]; Thai: ภาษาไทคำตี่ )
is a Southwestern Tai language spoken in Burma and India by the Khamti people.Kuan language (Laos)
Kuan (Guan) is a Tai language of Laos. It is not easily classified within Tai, possibly due to migration.Lakkia language
The Lakkia language (Chinese: 拉珈语; pinyin: Lājiāyǔ), also spelled Lakkja, is a Kra–Dai language spoken in Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County, Laibin, east-central Guangxi, China.
Lakkia speakers are thought to have migrated from further east, possibly from the Biao-speaking areas of northwestern Guangdong province (L.-Thongkum 1992). Today, they live mostly in the Dayaoshan (Chinese: 大瑶山; literally: 'Big Yao Mountain') region of Jinxiu County.Laurent Sagart
Laurent Sagart (French: [sagaʁ]; born 1951) is a senior researcher at the Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale (CRLAO – UMR 8563) unit of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).Mary Haas
Mary Rosamond Haas (January 23, 1910 – May 17, 1996) was an American linguist who specialized in North American Indian languages, Thai, and historical linguistics.Paul K. Benedict
Paul King Benedict (Chinese: 白保羅; pinyin: Bái Bǎoluó; July 5, 1912 – July 21, 1997) was an American anthropologist, mental health professional, and linguist who specialized in languages of East and Southeast Asia. He is well known for his 1942 proposal of the Austro-Tai language family and also his reconstruction of Proto-Sino-Tibetan and Proto-Tibeto-Burman. He was also a practicing psychiatrist in the New York area for 20 years and was also a pioneer in the field of ethnopsychiatry.Proto-Hlai language
The Proto-Hlai language is the reconstructed ancestor of the Hlai languages. Proto-Hlai reconstructions include those of Matisoff (1988), Thurgood (1991), Wu (2000), Ostapirat (2004), and Norquest (2007).Qabiao language
Qabiao, or sometimes Laqua (autonym: qa biau˧; Chinese: Pubiao 普标, Vietnamese: Pu Péo) is a Kra language spoken by the Qabiao people in northern Vietnam and Yunnan, China. Alternative names for Qabiao include Kabeo, Ka Beo, Ka Bao, Ka Biao, Laqua, Pubiao (Pupeo or Pu Péo) and Pen Ti Lolo (Bendi Lolo). The meaning of the name "Qabiao" is unknown.
The Qabiao language is highly endangered. Also, most of its speakers lack access to nearby potable water.Maza, a Lolo–Burmese language spoken near the Qabiao area, is notable for having a Qabiao substratum (Hsiu 2014:68-69).Writing systems of Southeast Asia
There are various non-Latin-based writing systems of Southeast Asia. The writing systems below are listed by language family.
and the Pacific