Laurent Sagart: The formation of Sino-Tibetan from the point of view of animal and plant domestications


23. 10. 2019 10:15


Trainee centre 3.40, Vodární 6, Olomouc


Drawing on the conclusions of a recent collective paper, this presentation will examine how a gradually improving understanding of East Asian domestications throws light on the age and homeland of the ST family. Language families are born when speakers of a language gain access to abundant and stable food supplies: this increases the total population’s numbers, fosters spatial expansion, differentiation into dialects and, with the passing of time, the appearance of mutually related languages. The Chinese and Sino-Tibetan names of the main domesticates found at early dates in East Asia: foxtail millet, broomcorn millet, rice, the pig, horse, sheep and cattle, will be discussed. It will be argued that the ST family arose in the late Cishan or early Yangshao cultures of north China c. 7200 BP, and that it owes its initial expansion to millets, pigs, sheep and possibly a locally managed type of cattle; that rice entered Sino-Tibetan from the south at some time after the family’s initial differentiation; and that wheat, barley, the horse and another type of cattle are west Eurasian domesticates intrusive in Sino-Tibetan.


Laurent Sagart (PhD 1990, University of Aix-Marseille 1)  is an emeritus scientist with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. His main interests lie in the reconstruction and classification of Sino-Tibetan and Autronesian languages; in the genetic relationships among East Asian language groups and in East Asian linguistic prehistory, envisioned from a multi-disciplinary perspective. He has taught at Ts’inghua University (Taiwan), Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, Cornell University (USA) and Institut National des langues et Civilisations Orientales (Paris). He is wrote numerous articles on East Asian linguistics and is the author or editor of several books on Chinese and East Asian linguistics including “the Roots of Old Chinese” (Benjamins, 1999), “the Peopling of East Asia ” (Routledge, 2005) and, with W. Baxter, “Old Chinese: a new reconstruction” (Oxford University Press, 2018).