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Language Contact and Language Change in the History of the Sinitic Languages

Randy J.LaPolla

  The Sino-Tibetan language family is one of the largest language families in the world,both in terms of number of speakers and in terms of geographic distribution.It includes the majority languages of China and Myanmar,plus minority languages in China,Myanmar,Thailand,Vietnam,and Northeast India.Three main factors have been involved in the formation of the present-day Sino-Tibetan language family:a shared genetic origin,divergent population movements(i.e.innovations appearing in the different groups after their split),and language contact(among themselves and with non-Sino -Tibetan languages).Population movements and language contact have in fact generally been two aspects of a single phenomenon.This paper looks at the history of the development of the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family from the point of view of population movements and language contact,to show the role language contact has had in the formation of the branch as we know it today.These factors have been an important part of the development of the branch from its origin in the central plains of what is now north China,in the valley of the Yellow River,some 6,500 years ago,right up to the present,and are still the main factors in language change today.……   
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