Language families represented in the Sinic world

17 Giu

Welcome back to my blog.

Less than a week ago, I talked about the branches of the Indo-European family as a follow-up to my post about the difference between the linguistic influence of a region within a family (Europe) and a region with an influence spehere such as East Asia.

But what kind of language families are represented in this region?

East Asian Cultural Sphere.png

The Sinic World is that portion of Asia that has been culturally influenced by China to the point of having adopted the Chinese writing system at some point. Note that other surrounding countries like Thailand and Mongolian had some influence, but I will only consider the main “China-Korea-Japan-Vietnam” region.

So, without further to do, let’s dive into the Sinic World.

Sino-Tibetan languages


With China being the main influence, it makes sense that the family Chinese belongs to is the most spoken and spread of the region.

The Sino-Tibetan can be divided in five branches.

The Karenic (brown) are related, but it is not unclear how. The orange ones are actually “other” languages of the family included together, to divide them from the other main branches.

The green one is the Lolo-Burmese, because Myanmar is the actual South-East Asian country where the languages are related to Chinese. I mention it because some would believe Vietnam to be this, but Vietnamese actually comes to another family.

Yellow is the Tibetic branch, spoken by hundreds of million people.

Then, in red, we have the Chinese languages branch. Standard Chinese, based on Mandarin, is just one of the multiple idioms we can find in China. In fact, some languages have diverged so much they are no longer mutually intellegible with each other.

Chinese is one of the oldest attested languages to have evolved and lasted to this day, where (if we count any variety) is by far the largest branch spoken in the World.

Austronesian languages


This language family is unique because it is spread throughout many islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from Hawaii to New Zealand, from Indonesia to Madagascar (exactly), from Easter Island to Taiwan.

Taiwanese Aborigenals may be the 2.3% of the population right now, but you can find many language divisions. If that surprises you, just look at the situation in the island of New Guinea.

(Altaic languages?)


I already wrote an article about the Altaic languages theory, which is stated to include Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and others.

As you may see from the map, all five theoretical branches of this family are spoken within the Sinic World, with the Koreanic and Japonic ones included only in this region.

The Japonic languages also include the Ryukyuan branch, whereas it is not clear if Korean and Japanese are related or not.

Ainu language


The Ainu, now mostly living in Hokkaido, are among those people in Eurasia that are so ancient it is not clear where do they come from, but managed to last until now. Think about the Basque or Dravidic people.

Some believe that the Ainu family once used to be spoken in the entirety of modern Japan, based on toponyms, but some others even tried to include it into the Altaic languages. Their mystery is so fascinating.

Austro-Asiatic languages


It is thought that this language family used to be spoken throughout all South-East Asia, but each time a new people rose from elsewhere, which would explain why the distribution looks so “scattered”. Vietnamese is probably the most known language of this family, also called Mon-Khmer.

These are the families you can find within the Sinic World, an influential sphere that managed to take all those unrelated idioms and make them look like they belong to a similar culture.

The article ends here.

See you, next time, here, on the Empty Blog!



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