Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the word order patterns in the Sino-Tibetan languages. The two branches, Sinitic (Chinese) and Tibeto-Burman, differ in that clauses in Sinitic are largely verb-medial while those in Tibeto-Burman are verb-final. This chapter explains both patterns using information structure rather than grammatical relations, and looks at the historical factors that led to the different patterns in the two branches of the family. The evidence points to Proto-Sino-Tibetan having been verb-final, with the unmarked focus position being immediately preverbal. After the split of the two branches, the Sinitic side of the family developed verb-medial clauses due to a gradual shift to a clause-final focus position, possibly due at least in part to contact with Tai-Kadai languages, much as the Tibeto-Burman languages Bai and Karen have changed to verb-medial syntax due to contact with Sinitic in the case of Bai, and Tai and Mon-Khmer languages in the case of Karen.

Keywords: Sino-Tibetan languages, Tibeto-Burman languages, Sinitic languages, Chinese languages, word order, constituent order, reconstructing syntax

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.