Languages of East Asia

The languages of East Asia belong to several distinct language families, with many common features attributed to interaction. In the Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area, Chinese varieties and languages of southeast Asia share many areal features, tending to be analytic languages with similar syllable and tone structure. In the 1st millennium AD, Chinese culture came to dominate East Asia. Classical Chinese was adopted by scholars in Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. There was a massive influx of Chinese vocabulary into these and other neighboring languages. The Chinese script was also adapted to write Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, though in the first two the use of Chinese characters is now restricted to university learning, linguistic or historical study, artistic or decorative works and (in Korean's case) newspapers.

Language families

The Austroasiatic languages include Vietnamese and Khmer, as well as many other languages spoken in areas scattered as far afield as Malaya and eastern India, often in isolated pockets surrounded by the ranges of other language groups. Most linguists believe that Austroasiatic languages once ranged continuously across southeast Asia and that their scattered distribution today is the result of the subsequent arrival of other language groups.[1]

One of these groups were the Tai–Kadai languages such as Thai, Lao and Shan. These languages were originally spoken in southern China, where the greatest diversity within the family is still found, and possibly as far north as the Yangtze valley. As Chinese civilization expanded southward from the North China Plain, many Tai–Kadai speakers became sinicized, while others were displaced to Southeast Asia. With the exception of Zhuang, most of the Tai–Kadai languages still remaining in China are spoken in isolated upland areas.[2]

The Miao–Yao or Hmong–Mien languages also originated in southern China, where they are now spoken only in isolated hill regions. Many Hmong–Mien speakers were displaced into Southeast Asia during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th and 19th centuries, triggered by the suppression of a series of revolts in Guizhou.[3]

The Austronesian languages are believed to have spread from Taiwan to the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as some areas of mainland southeast Asia.[4]

The varieties of Chinese are usually included in the Sino-Tibetan family, which also includes Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Tibet, southwest China, northeast India, Burma and neighbouring countries.

To the north are the Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic language families, which some linguists had grouped as an Altaic family, sometimes also including the Korean and Japonic languages, but is now seen as a discredited theory and is no longer supported by specialists in these languages.[5] The languages tend to be atonal, polysyllabic and agglutinative, with subject–object–verb word order and some degree of vowel harmony.[6] Critics of the Altaic hypothesis attribute the similarities to intense language contact between the languages that occurred sometime in pre-history.[7]

Chinese scholars often group Tai–Kadai and Hmong–Mien with Sino-Tibetan, but Western scholarship since the Second World War has considered them as separate families. Some larger groupings have been proposed, but are not widely supported. The Austric hypothesis, based on morphology and other resemblances, is that Austroasiatic, Austronesian, often Tai–Kadai, and sometimes Hmong–Mien form a genetic family. Other hypothetical groupings include the Sino-Austronesian languages and Austro-Tai languages. Linguists undergoing long-range comparison have hypothesized even larger macrofamilies such as Dené–Caucasian, including Sino-Tibetan and Ket.

Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area

The Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area stretches from Thailand to China and is home to speakers of languages of the Sino-Tibetan, Hmong–Mien (or Miao–Yao), Tai-Kadai, Austronesian (represented by Chamic) and Austroasiatic families. Neighbouring languages across these families, though presumed unrelated, often have similar typological features, which are believed to have spread by diffusion.[8]

Characteristic of many MSEA languages is a particular syllable structure involving monosyllabic morphemes, lexical tone, a fairly large inventory of consonants, including phonemic aspiration, limited clusters at the beginning of a syllable, plentiful vowel contrasts and relatively few final consonants. Languages in the northern part of the area generally have fewer vowel and final contrasts but more initial contrasts.[9]

A well-known feature is the similar tone systems in Chinese, Hmong–Mien, Tai languages and Vietnamese. Most of these languages passed through an earlier stage with three tones on most syllables (apart from checked syllables ending in a stop consonant), which was followed by a tone split where the distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants disappeared but in compensation the number of tones doubled. These parallels led to confusion over the classification of these languages, until Haudricourt showed in 1954 that tone was not an invariant feature, by demonstrating that Vietnamese tones corresponded to certain final consonants in other languages of the Mon–Khmer family, and proposed that tone in the other languages had a similar origin.[10]

MSEA languages tend to have monosyllabic morphemes, though there are exceptions.[11] Most MSEA languages are very analytic, with no inflection and little derivational morphology. Grammatical relations are typically signalled by word order, particles and coverbs or adpositions. Modality is expressed using sentence-final particles. The usual word order in MSEA languages is subject–verb–object. Chinese and Karen are thought to have changed to this order from the subject–object–verb order retained by most other Sino-Tibetan languages. The order of constituents within a noun phrase varies: noun–modifier order is usual in Tai languages, Vietnamese and Miao, while in Chinese varieties and Yao most modifiers are placed before the noun.[12][13] Topic-comment organization is also common.[14]

Languages of both eastern and southeast Asia typically have well-developed systems of numeral classifiers.[15] The neighbouring Bengali language has numerical classifiers, even though it is an Indo-European language which do not share the other features discussed in this article. Bengali also lacks gender, unlike most Indo-European languages. Bengali (especially the eastern variety) is more phonologically similar to southeastern and eastern languages than those further away from the region, with alveolar consonants replacing the retroflex consonants characteristic of other Indo-Aryan languages. Some dialects bordering southeast Asia such as Chittagonian have even developed phonemic tone. The other areas of the world where numerical classifier systems are common in indigenous languages are the western parts of North and South America, so that numerical classifiers could even be seen as a pan-Pacific Rim areal feature.[16] However, similar noun class systems are also found among most Sub-Saharan African languages.

Influence of Literary Chinese

For most of the pre-modern period, Chinese culture dominated East Asia. Scholars in Vietnam, Korea and Japan wrote in Literary Chinese and were thoroughly familiar with the Chinese classics. Their languages absorbed large numbers of Chinese words, known collectively as Sino-Xenic vocabulary, i.e. Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean and Sino-Vietnamese. These words were written with Chinese characters and pronounced in a local approximation of Middle Chinese.[17]

Today, these words of Chinese origin may be written in the traditional Chinese characters (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), simplified Chinese characters (Chinese, Japanese), a locally developed phonetic script (Korean hangul, Japanese kana), or a Latin alphabet (Vietnamese). The Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese languages are collectively referred to as CJKV, or just CJK, since modern Vietnamese is no longer written with Chinese characters at all.

In a similar way to the use of Latin and ancient Greek roots in English, the morphemes of Classical Chinese have been used extensively in all these languages to coin compound words for new concepts.[18] These coinages, written in shared Chinese characters, have then been borrowed freely between languages. They have even been accepted into Chinese, a language usually resistant to loanwords, because their foreign origin was hidden by their written form.[19]

Topic–comment constructions

In topic–comment constructions, sentences are frequently structured with a topic as the first segment and a comment as the second. This way of marking previously mentioned vs. newly introduced information is an alternative to articles, which are not found in East Asian languages. The Topic–comment sentence structure is a legacy of Classical Chinese influence on the grammar of modern East Asian languages. In Classical Chinese, the focus of the phrase (i.e. the topic) was often placed first, which was then followed by a statement about the topic. The most generic sentence form in Classical Chinese is "A B 也", where B is a comment about the topic A.


Classical Chinese example:

Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner I already eat AFFIRMATIVE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: I've already eaten.)

Mandarin Chinese example:

今天 晚飯 已經 吃過 了。
今天 晚饭 已经 吃过 了。
Transcription: Jīntiān de wǎnfàn yǐjīng chīguò le.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner I already eat-PERFECTIVE NEWSTATE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: I've already eaten.)

Cantonese example:

今日 晚餐 已經 食咗 喇。
Transcription: Gam1jat6 ge3 maan5caan1 ngo5 ji5ging1 sik6zo2 laa3
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner I already eat-PERFECTIVE NEWSTATE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: I've already eaten.)

Hokkien example:

今仔日 暗頓 食過 矣。
Transcription: Kin-á-ji̍t ê àm-tǹg góa ū chia̍h-kòe ah
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner I have-AUXILIARY eat-PERFECTIVE already
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: I've already eaten.)

Japanese example:

今日 晩ご飯 もう 食べた。
Transcription: Kyō no bangohan wa tabeta.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner TOPIC already eat-PERFECTIVE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: already eaten.)

The epistolary style of Japanese (Sōrōbun) example:

今日 夕飯 食申候也。
Transcription: Kyō no yūhan sudeni tabemōshisōrōnari.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner already eat-HUMBLE-POLITE-AFFIRMATIVE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: already eaten.)

The Standard Meiji-Era Written Style of Japanese (Meiji Futsūbun) example:

今日 夕飯 已ニ 之ヲ 食ス。
Transcription: Kyō no yūhan wa sudeni korewo shokusu.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner TOPIC already this-ACCUSATIVE eat
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: already eaten this.)

Korean example:

오늘 저녁밥 벌써 먹었다.
Transcription: Oneur ui jeonyeokbab eun beolsseo meogeotda.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner TOPIC already eat-PERFECTIVE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: already eaten.)

Korean mixed script example:

今日 晩食 旣已 食事하였다.
Transcription: Geumir ui mansig eun gii siksahayeotda.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner TOPIC already eat-PERFECTIVE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: already eaten.)

Okinawan Ryukyuan example:

今日 夕御飯ー なー 噛だん。
Transcription: Chuu nu yuu'ubanoo naa kadan.
Gloss: today GENITIVE dinner-TOPIC already eat-PERFECTIVE
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner. (Topic: today's dinner; Comment: already eaten.)

Note that in Okinawan, the topic marker is indicated by lengthening the short vowels and adding -oo to words ending in -N/-n. For words ending in long vowels, the topic is introduced only by や.


Vietnamese example:

Hôm nay tôi đã ăn bữa ăn tối.
Chữ Nôm: 𣋚𠉞 𩛖 𩛷𩛖啐。
Gloss: today I already eat dinner
Translation: I've already eaten today's dinner.

Politeness systems

Linguistic systems of politeness, including frequent use of honorific titles, with varying levels of politeness or respect, are well-developed in Japanese and Korean. Politeness systems in Chinese are relatively weak, having simplified from a more developed system into a much less predominant role in modern Chinese.[20] This is especially true when speaking of the southern Chinese varieties. However, Vietnamese has retained a highly complex system of pronouns, in which the terms mostly derive from Chinese. For example, bác, chú, dượng, and cậu are all terms ultimately derived from Chinese and all refer to different statuses of "uncle".

In many of the region's languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Malay/Indonesian, new personal pronouns or forms of reference or address can and often do evolve from nouns as fresh ways of expressing respect or social status. Thus personal pronouns are open class words rather than closed class words: they are not stable over time, not few in number, and not clitics whose use is obligatory in grammatical constructs. In addition to Korean honorifics that indicate politeness toward the subject of the speech, Korean speech levels indicate a level of politeness and familiarity directed toward the audience.

With modernization and other trends, politeness language is evolving to be simpler. Avoiding the need for complex polite language can also motivate use in some situations of languages like Indonesian or English that have less complex respect systems.

See also



  1. ^ Sidwell & Blench (2011), pp. 339–340.
  2. ^ Ramsey (1987), p. 233.
  3. ^ Ramsey (1987), pp. 278–279.
  4. ^ Diamond (2000).
  5. ^ "While 'Altaic' is repeated in encyclopedias and handbooks most specialists in these languages no longer believe that the three traditional supposed Altaic groups, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic, are related." Lyle Campbell & Mauricio J. Mixco, A Glossary of Historical Linguistics (2007, University of Utah Press), pg. 7.
  6. ^ Norman (1988), p. 6.
  7. ^ Schönig (2003), p. 403.
  8. ^ Enfield (2005), pp. 182–184.
  9. ^ Enfield (2005), pp. 186–187.
  10. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 53–56.
  11. ^ Enfield (2005), p. 186.
  12. ^ Enfield (2005), pp. 187–190.
  13. ^ Ramsey (1987), p. 280.
  14. ^ Enfield (2005), pp. 189–190.
  15. ^ Enfield (2005), p. 189.
  16. ^ Nichols (1992), pp. 131–133.
  17. ^ Miyake (2004), p. 99.
  18. ^ Shibatani (1990), p. 146.
  19. ^ Wilkinson (2000), p. 43.
  20. ^ KCTOS 2007: What Happened to the Honorifics?

Sources cited

  • Diamond, Jared M (2000), "Taiwan's gift to the world" (PDF), Nature, 403 (6771): 709–710, doi:10.1038/35001685, PMID 10693781.
  • Enfield, N.J. (2005), "Areal Linguistics and Mainland Southeast Asia" (PDF), Annual Review of Anthropology, 34 (1): 181–206, doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.34.081804.120406.
  • Miyake, Marc Hideo (2004), Old Japanese: A Phonetic Reconstruction, RoutledgeCurzon, ISBN 978-0-415-30575-4.
  • Nichols, Johanna (1992), Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-58056-2.
  • Norman, Jerry (1988), Chinese, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29653-3.
  • Ramsey, S. Robert (1987), The Languages of China, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-01468-5.
  • Schönig, Claus (2003), "Turko-Mongolic Relations", in Janhunen, Juha (ed.), The Mongolic Languages, London: Routledge, pp. 403–419, ISBN 978-0-7007-1133-8.
  • Shibatani, Masayoshi (1990), The Languages of Japan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-36918-3.
  • Sidwell, Paul; Blench, Roger (2011), "The Austroasiatic Urheimat: the Southeastern Riverine Hypothesis" (PDF), in Enfield, N.J. (ed.), Dynamics of Human Diversity: The Case of Mainland Southeast Asia, Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, pp. 317–345, ISBN 978-0-85883-638-9.
  • Wilkinson, Endymion (2000), Chinese history: a manual (2nd ed.), Harvard Univ Asia Center, ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4.
94 (number)

94 (ninety-four) is the natural number following 93 and preceding 95.

Absolute pitch

Absolute pitch (AP), often called perfect pitch, is a rare ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone. AP can be demonstrated via linguistic labeling ("naming" a note), auditory imagery, or sensorimotor responses. For example, an AP possessor can accurately reproduce a heard tone on a musical instrument without "hunting" for the correct pitch. The frequency of AP in the general population is not known. The assumed occurrence of less than 1:10,000 is widely reported, but it is not supported by evidence. However, a review of more recent and international studies indicates prevalence of at least 4% amongst music students.Generally, absolute pitch implies some or all of the following abilities, achieved without a reference tone:

Identify by name individual pitches (e.g. F♯, A, G, C) played on various instruments.

Name the key of a given piece of tonal music.

Identify and name all the tones of a given chord or other tonal mass.

Accurately sing a named pitch.

Name the pitches of common everyday sounds such as car horns and alarms.People may have absolute pitch along with the ability of relative pitch, and relative and absolute pitch work together in actual musical listening and practice, but strategies in using each skill vary.Adults who possess relative pitch but do not already have absolute pitch can learn "pseudo-absolute pitch" and become able to identify notes in a way that superficially resembles absolute pitch. Certain people who train to name notes may indeed become able to identify all 12 notes of the scale with 90% accuracy or above, and Valproate, a medication used to treat epilepsy and severe depression, may re-open the "critical period" of learning, making the acquisition of absolute pitch, as well as languages, potentially as efficient for adults as for children.. Even so, pitch training can require considerable motivation, time, and effort, and learning is not retained without constant practice and reinforcement.

American anthropology

American anthropology has culture as its central and unifying concept. This most commonly refers to the universal human capacity to classify and encode human experiences symbolically, and to communicate symbolically encoded experiences socially. American anthropology is organized into four fields, each of which plays an important role in research on culture:

biological anthropology

linguistic anthropology

cultural anthropology

archaeologyResearch in these fields has influenced anthropologists working in other countries to different degrees.

CJK characters

In internationalization, CJK is a collective term for the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages, all of which include Chinese characters and derivatives (collectively, CJK characters) in their writing systems. Occasionally, Vietnamese is included, making the abbreviation CJKV, since Vietnamese historically used Chinese characters as well. Collectively, the CJKV characters often include hànzì in Chinese, kanji, kana in Japanese, hanja, hangul in Korean, and hán tự or chữ nôm in Vietnamese.

Chinese language

Chinese (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語; pinyin: Hànyǔ; literally: 'Han language'; or especially though not exclusively for written Chinese: 中文; Zhōngwén; 'Chinese writing') is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people (around 16% of the world's population) speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

The varieties of Chinese are usually described by native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, but linguists note that they are as diverse as a language family. The internal diversity of Chinese has been likened to that of the Romance languages, but may be even more varied. There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken by far is Mandarin (about 800 million, e.g. Southwestern Mandarin), followed by Min (75 million, e.g. Southern Min), Wu (74 million, e.g. Shanghainese), Yue (68 million, e.g. Cantonese), etc. Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, and even dialect groups within Min Chinese may not be mutually intelligible. Some, however, like Xiang and certain Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and a certain degree of intelligibility. All varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic.

Standard Chinese (Pǔtōnghuà/Guóyǔ/Huáyǔ) is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. It is the official language of China and Taiwan, as well as one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The written form of the standard language (中文; Zhōngwén), based on the logograms known as Chinese characters (汉字/漢字; Hànzì), is shared by literate speakers of otherwise unintelligible dialects.

The earliest Chinese written records are Shang dynasty-era oracle inscriptions, which can be traced back to 1250 BCE. The phonetic categories of Archaic Chinese can be reconstructed from the rhymes of ancient poetry. During the Northern and Southern dynasties period, Middle Chinese went through several sound changes and split into several varieties following prolonged geographic and political separation. Qieyun, a rime dictionary, recorded a compromise between the pronunciations of different regions. The royal courts of the Ming and early Qing dynasties operated using a koiné language (Guanhua) based on Nanjing dialect of Lower Yangtze Mandarin. Standard Chinese was adopted in the 1930s, and is now the official language of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Horizontal and vertical writing in East Asian scripts

Many East Asian scripts can be written horizontally or vertically. Chinese, Japanese and Korean scripts can be oriented in either direction, as they consist mainly of disconnected logographic or syllabic units, each occupying a square block of space, thus allowing for flexibility for which direction texts can be written, be it horizontally from left-to-right, horizontally from right-to-left, vertically from top-to-bottom, and even vertically from bottom-to-top.

Horizontal writing is known in Chinese as hengpai (simplified Chinese: 横排; traditional Chinese: 橫排; pinyin: héngpái; literally: 'horizontal alignment'), in Japanese as yokogaki (横書き, "horizontal writing", also yokogumi, 横組み), and in Korean as garosseugi (가로쓰기) or hoengseo (횡서; 橫書).

Vertical writing is known respectively as zongpai (simplified Chinese: 纵排; traditional Chinese: 縱排; pinyin: zōngpái; literally: 'vertical alignment'), tategaki (縦書き, "vertical writing", also tategumi, 縦組み), or serosseugi (세로쓰기) or jongseo (종서; 縱書).

Traditionally, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are written vertically in columns going from top to bottom and ordered from right to left, with each new column starting to the left of the preceding one. The stroke order and stroke direction of Chinese characters (hanzi in Chinese, kanji in Japanese, hanja in Korean), Japanese kana, and Korean Hangul all facilitate writing in this manner. In addition, writing in vertical columns from right to left facilitated writing with a brush in the right hand while continually unrolling the sheet of paper or scroll with the left. Since the nineteenth century, it has become increasingly common for these languages to be written horizontally, from left to right, with successive rows going from top to bottom, under the influence of European languages such as English, although vertical writing is still frequently used in Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Korea, and Taiwan.


Language is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; a language is any specific example of such a system.

The scientific study of language is called linguistics. Questions concerning the philosophy of language, such as whether words can represent experience, have been debated at least since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greece. Thinkers such as Rousseau have argued that language originated from emotions while others like Kant have held that it originated from rational and logical thought. 20th-century philosophers such as Wittgenstein argued that philosophy is really the study of language. Major figures in linguistics include Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky.

Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. However, any precise estimate depends on a partly arbitrary distinction between languages and dialects. Natural languages are spoken or signed, but any language can be encoded into secondary media using auditory, visual, or tactile stimuli – for example, in whistling, signed, or braille. This is because human language is modality-independent. Depending on philosophical perspectives regarding the definition of language and meaning, when used as a general concept, "language" may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs to particular meanings. Oral, manual and tactile languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances.

Human language has the properties of productivity and displacement, and relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure affords a much wider range of expressions than any known system of animal communication. Language is thought to have originated when early hominins started gradually changing their primate communication systems, acquiring the ability to form a theory of other minds and a shared intentionality. This development is sometimes thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume, and many linguists see the structures of language as having evolved to serve specific communicative and social functions. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca's and Wernicke's areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently by approximately three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as social grooming and entertainment.

Languages evolve and diversify over time, and the history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages to determine which traits their ancestral languages must have had in order for the later developmental stages to occur. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor is known as a language family. The Indo-European family is the most widely spoken and includes languages as diverse as English, Russian and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan family includes Mandarin and the other Chinese languages, Bodo and Tibetan; the Afro-Asiatic family includes Arabic, Somali, and Hebrew; the Bantu languages include Swahili, and Zulu, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa; and the Malayo-Polynesian languages include Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout the Pacific. The languages of the Dravidian family, spoken mostly in Southern India, include Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Academic consensus holds that between 50% and 90% of languages spoken at the beginning of the 21st century will probably have become extinct by the year 2100.

Non-Sinoxenic pronunciations

Non-Sinoxenic pronunciations are vocabularies borrowed from Chinese, but differ from Sinoxenic pronunciations in that:

The corresponding Chinese writing system (hànzì) is not borrowed alongside the pronunciation

The pronunciation did not arise from the attempt at adopting Chinese as the literary language

The borrowed vocabulary is not limited to Classical Chinese, but often includes modern and colloquial forms of ChineseAs such, non-Sinoxenic pronunciations are therefore loanwords in which the corresponding Chinese character is not adopted. These non-Sinoxenic pronunciations are thus most prominent in Asian languages in which cultural exchanges with Chinese culture occurred (e.g. Mongolian, Central Asian or Turkic languages), but the adoption of the Chinese writing system did not occur. This also includes non-Sinitic languages within China (e.g. Tibetan, Uyghur, Hani, Zhuang, Hmong).

While the Sinoxenic model has traditionally held the limelight as the most distinctive and influential model for the borrowing of Chinese vocabulary, it is not the only model. For Sinoxenic languages, pronunciations are regarded as non-Sinoxenic if there is a mismatch between the vocabulary and the codified Sinoxenic pronunciation.

Sino-Xenic pronunciations

Sino-Xenic or Sinoxenic pronunciations are regular systems for reading Chinese characters in Japan, Korea and Vietnam, originating in medieval times and the source of large-scale borrowings of Chinese words into the Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese languages, none of which are genetically related to Chinese. The resulting Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean and Sino-Vietnamese vocabularies now make up a large part of the lexicons of these languages. The pronunciation systems are used alongside modern varieties of Chinese in historical Chinese phonology, particularly the reconstruction of the sounds of Middle Chinese. Some other languages, such as Hmong–Mien and Tai-Kadai languages, also contain large numbers of Chinese loanwords but without the systematic correspondences that characterize Sino-Xenic vocabularies.

The term, from the Greek xenos "foreign", was coined in 1953 by the linguist Samuel Martin, who called these borrowings "Sino-Xenic dialects".

Standard Tibetan

Standard Tibetan is a widely spoken form of the Tibetic languages that has many commonalities with the speech of Lhasa, an Ü-Tsang (Central Tibetan) dialect. For this reason, Standard Tibetan is often called Lhasa Tibetan. Tibetan is an official language of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The written language is based on Classical Tibetan and is highly conservative.


In historical linguistics, an Urheimat (from German ur- "original" and Heimat, home, homeland) is the area of origin of the speakers of a proto-language, the (reconstructed or known) parent language of a group of languages assumed to be genetically related.

Depending on the age of the language family under consideration, its homeland may be known with near-certainty (in the case of historical or near-historical migrations) or it may be very uncertain (in the case of deep prehistory). The reconstruction of a prehistorical homeland makes use of a variety of disciplines, including archaeology and archaeogenetics.

Word divider

In punctuation, a word divider is a glyph that separates written words. In languages which use the Latin, Cyrillic, and Arabic alphabets, as well as other scripts of Europe and West Asia, the word divider is a blank space, or whitespace, a convention which is spreading, along with other aspects of European punctuation, to Asia and Africa. However, many languages of East Asia are written without word separation .

In character encoding, word segmentation depends on which characters are defined as word dividers.

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