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Some Proto-Tujia reconstructions

Andrew Hsiu
July 2018
Please cite as: Hsiu, Andrew. 2018. Some Proto-Tujia reconstructions. <https://sites.google.com/site/msealangs/home/blog/proto-tujia>.
Please note that this is a working draft that will be periodically updated.

Tujia consists of two languages (Northern Tujia and Southern Tujia) spoken in northwestern Hunan, China. So far, no reconstruction of Proto-Tujia exists. The Proto-Tujia reconstructions below are based from Northern Tujia and Southern Tujia forms given in Tian & He (1986).

Due to the heavily eroded lexical forms in synchronic Tujia languages, Proto-Tujia is not easy to reconstruct. In Tujia lects, prefixes (some of which are frozen classifiers) and suffixes were often added to the original noun stem over time, often making it difficult to determine which syllable to reconstruct.

Although the Automated Similarity Judgment Program (ASJP) classifies Tujia outside the main Sino-Tibetan cluster and treats it as an isolate, I consider Tujia to be a fully Sino-Tibetan language.

In Hsiu (2015), I proposed that there is a "Plateau" linguistic area covering most of Guizhou and western Hunan. The Plateau linguistic area includes Hmongic, Northern Kra (Gelao and Lachi), Loloish, and Tujia. Phonological features found in this linguistic area include the loss of final rimes, limited number of tones (often only 4), and preference for nouns with 2-3 syllables. On the other hand, the "Lingnan" linguistic area in Guangxi and Guangdong includes Mienic, Tai, Southern Kra, and Yue Chinese, and has phonological features opposite of those found in the Plateau linguistic area.

The agricultural lexicon of Tujia mainly has parallels with Lolo-Burmese and Old Chinese, with some parallels in Proto-Hmong-Mien. Roger Blench (2009) argues that Tujia has non-Sino-Tibetan agricultural vocabulary, but Blench's proposed non-Sino-Tibetan forms in Tujia are actually mostly from Sinitic and Burmo-Qiangic; the Tujia forms have simply undergone heavy erosion.

Southern Tujia tends to preserve initials better, while Northern Tujia tends to preserve rimes better. Southern Tujia -o is a result of vowel backing from Proto-Tujia *-a > > -ɑ > -o. This seems to be a areal feature, as many Gelao dialects (Hongfeng, Judu, etc.) display Proto-Kra *-a > > -ɑ. Northern Tujia displays Proto-Tujia *n- > l-, Proto-Tujia *m- > p-, and Proto-Tujia initial stop devoicing / aspiration for some, but not all words.

Proto-Tujia displays some influence from Burmo-Qiangic languages, and some forms display Qiangic brightening (PTB *-a > -i). However, the majority of words have no parallels with Burmo-Qiangic. Despite the geographical proximity, there are not many parallels with Proto-Hmong-Mien. Tujia is also not "Donor-Miao-Yao," the Tibeto-Burman branch posited by Benedict (1987) that had given Proto-Hmong-Mien its numerals and various other lexical items. Tujia is thus best treated as an independent Sino-Tibetan branch.

The Southern Tujia autonym is "Mongji," which is reminiscent of "Hmong." Could this have been an areal endonym?
The Northern Tujia autonym is "Biji" or "Miji," which is reminiscent of "Miji" in Arunachal. "Mi" is derived from Proto-Tibeto-Burman *mi 'person'.

List of reconstructions
Note: Since final stops cannot be reconstructed for Proto-Tujia, I have used top-down reconstruction to reconstruction likely Pre-Tujia forms, which are preceded by <.

*s-ni ‘ant’
*gu ‘ascend’
*mu ‘ashes’
*mu ‘bamboo’
*si ‘be / copula’
*C-bu ‘beans’
*k-tɕʰe ‘bear’
*ne ‘bed’
*tsoŋ ‘bell’
*tsʰi ‘big’
*kʰɯ ‘bitter’
*la(ŋ) ‘black’
*me < *mek ‘blood’
*mi ‘blow’
*bu ‘boat’
*pʰɯ ‘boil’
*ka ‘bone’
*man ‘breast, milk’
*pʰu ‘buy’
*za < *C-ra ‘chicken’
*mu ‘chopsticks’
*wu ‘common cattle’
*dzi ‘cry, weep’
*se ‘die’
*zi ‘do’
*k-le ‘dog’
*pʰu ‘dragon’
*mu ‘dream’
*ti(aŋ) ‘drop’
*tse(ŋ) ‘ear’
*ka; ɣɯ ‘eat’
*le ‘egg’
*se ‘excrement’
*dzu ‘exit’
*lo ‘eye’
*gu ‘face’
*gɯ ‘fear’
*mi ‘fire’
*s-ŋu ‘fish’
*ŋu ‘five’
*pu ‘flower’
*tsʰi ~ dʑi ‘foot’
*si ma ‘forget’
*ze < *Cre ‘four’
*bu ‘fruit’
*je ‘ghost’
*zo ‘goat / sheep’
*kʰo ‘gold’
*tsʰa ‘good’
*ŋo ‘goose’
*ze ‘grandson’
*pʰo ‘graze’
*sa < *sam ‘hair (head)’
*dʑe ‘hand’
*kʰɯ ‘hang’
*kʰɯ ‘hard’
*ko ‘he / she’
*ba ‘head’
*li ‘heart’
*du ‘heavy’
*su ‘hide’
*kʰɯ ‘horn’
*ma ‘horse’
*tsʰo ‘house’
*ŋa ‘I’
*b-la ‘intestines’
*ɕe ‘iron’
*jau ‘kidney’
*gɯ ‘know / can / be able to’
*de ‘late’
*ne ‘laugh’
*ɣɯ ‘leaf’
*pʰe ? ‘leech’
*la ‘lick’
*zu ‘light’
*ze ‘liquor’
*kan ? ‘liver’
*ɣɯ ‘long’
*si < *sik ‘louse’
*si ‘meat, flesh’
*se ‘medicine’
*wu < *wuŋ ‘millet’
*ɣɯ ‘monkey’
*su < *hlu ? ‘moon’
*ŋa; ɣɯ ‘needle’
*ta ‘NEG imperative’
*si < *sin ‘new’
*tɕi ‘nose’
*si ‘oil’
*ȵo ‘person’
*dzi ‘pig’
*dzi ‘pus’
*tse ‘rain’
*ze ‘rat’
*dzi ‘rice (cooked)’
*bu ‘rice (plant)’
*s-ɣɯ ‘rice (uncooked)’
*buŋ ‘rice steamer’
*la < *lam ‘road / way’
*la; si ‘salt’
*se ‘shit’
*wo < *rok ‘six’
*mɯ ‘sky’
*ne ‘sleep’
*kɯ ‘smoke’
*p-ru ‘snake’
*su ‘snow’
*tsʰi ‘spider’
*pa; lu < *prak; luŋ ‘stone / rock’
*dze < Ersuic *detʃʰiu¹ ‘sweet’
*ni pu ‘taro’
*hɯ ‘ten’
*la ‘thick’
*de ‘think’
*so < *som ‘three’
*li ‘tiger’
*dzi la ‘tongue’
*si ‘tooth’
*kʰa ‘tree, wood’
*mi ‘person, human’
*noŋ ‘turtle’
*ne ‘two’
*tsʰe ‘urine’
*ju ‘village’
*pʰi ‘vomit’
*tʰi ‘wait’
*ɣɯ ‘walk’
*di ‘want’
*lo < *lom ‘warm’
*tsʰe ‘water’
*zuan ‘water buffalo’
*si ‘white’
*ze < *Cre < *prem ‘wind’
*C-ta ‘wing’
*pʰɯ ‘wrap’
*ȵun ‘year’
*se ‘you (pl.)’
*ni ‘you (sg.)’

Benedict, Paul K. 1987. "Early MY/TB Loan Relationships." In Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 10 , no. 2: 12-21.

Blench, Roger. 2009. If agriculture cannot be reconstructed for Proto-Sino-Tibetan, what are the consequences?. Paper presented at the 42nd International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Language and Linguistics (ICSTLL 42), Chiang Mai, November 2-4, 2009.

Hsiu, Andrew. 2015. The linguistic geography of Southern China. Presented at HLS 21, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Tian Desheng and He Tianzhen, et al., eds. 1986. Tujiayu jianzhi [Brief description of the Tujia language]. Beijing: Nationalities Press. Accessed via STEDT database.

Andrew Hsiu,
Jul 20, 2018, 10:56 AM