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On 'Sino-Bodic' and Other Symptoms of Neosubgroupitis

James A. Matisoff
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Vol. 63, No. 3 (2000), pp. 356-369
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1559492
Page Count: 14
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On 'Sino-Bodic' and Other Symptoms of Neosubgroupitis
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Abstract

In a recent article entitled 'Sino-Bodic' ("BSOAS" 60/3, 1997, 456-88), the Dutch linguist Sjors van Driem, a leading specialist in the Himalayan branch of Tibeto-Burman, makes far-reaching claims for an especially close relationship between Chinese and the 'Bodic' branch of TB, which is understood as comprising languages including Tibetan and the Kiranti group of Eastern Nepal. On the one hand, Van Driem's comparisons rely on his own close familiarity with the Kiranti languages, and on the other, William Baxter's reconstructions of Old Chinese. Unfortunately, however, the comparisons offered do not prove a special Sino-Bodic relationship. Many of the cognate identifications are uncertain or incorrect. Even when genuine cognates are involved, usually the TB root is found in other branches of the family besides 'Bodic'. In the present state of our knowledge of comparative TB, we should avoid jumping to conclusions about the internal supergrouping of the major branches of the family. After all, even Indo-Europeanists are still disagreeing about such matters after 200 years of scholarship.

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