The discovery of Trans-Himalayan

Presented by Professor George van Driem
University of Berne, Switzerland

11:00am Monday 24th August 2015

Lecture Theatre 1, Education Building UNE


The Trans-Himalayan language family is the second most populous language stock in the world, including Burmese, Tibetan, Cantonese, Hokkien, Limbu, Galo, Mandarin, Milang, Dumi and over three hundred other languages. At the beginning of the 19th century, several attempts were made to identify the linguistic phyla of eastern Eurasia. Two major attempts, though wrong-headed, would continue to influence scholarly thinking for two centuries under various guises. A third attempt succeeded in correctly delineating the contours of the language family in 1823. Yet the three phylogenetic paradigms, the well informed as well as the not so well informed, continued to compete as ever more languages and linguistic communities came to be known to science. A concise informed historiography of Tibeto-Burman linguistics and linguistic phylogeny gives us a clear and understandable view of the big picture of the field as a whole.