First of all, I’d like to thank all of you who have written comments or e-mails about my father’s passing; it means a great deal to me. One such e-mail also contained a welcome distraction: a link to a pdf file of James A. Matisoff’s Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction. I don’t quite grasp how they can put a 792-page book that retails for $95.00 online for free, but I’m certainly glad; ever since a dear friend introduced me to Shafer’s work on Sino-Tibetan over 30 years ago, I’ve been curious to get an up-to-date take on the field, and this looks to provide it, at least for the Tibeto-Burman branch:

This 800-page volume is a clear and readable presentation of the current state of research on the history of the Tibeto-Burman (TB) language family, a typologically diverse group of over 250 languages spoken in Southern China, the Himalayas, NE India, and peninsular Southeast Asia. The TB languages are the only proven relatives of Chinese, with which they form the great Sino-Tibetan family.
The exposition is systematic, treating the reconstruction of all the elements of the TB proto-syllable in turn, including initial consonants (Ch. III), prefixes (Ch. IV), monophthongal and diphthongal rhymes (Ch. V), final nasals (Ch. VII), final stops (Ch. VIII), final liquids (Ch. IX), root-final *-s (Ch. X), suffixes (Ch. XI). Particular attention is paid to variational phenomena at all historical levels (e.g. Ch. XII “Allofamic variation in rhymes”).
This Handbook builds on the best previous scholarship, and adds up-to-date material that has accumulated over the past 30 years. It contains reconstructions of over a thousand Tibeto-Burman roots, as well as suggested comparisons with several hundred Chinese etyma. It is liberally indexed and cross-referenced for maximum accessibility and internal consistency.

Thanks, Carlos! And while I’m on the subject of Tibeto-Burman, let me pass on a request from Julia Yeates, who is about to become the owner of a Tibetan terrier (“he’s male, black and white and very hairy…”) and would like “a Tibetan name for the puppy that means ‘blessing’ or ‘good fortune’ or something similar and something that we can call when he disappears in the woods.” Alas, Tibetan is not one of my languages, but I’m sure somebody out there can help; you can leave a comment or write her directly at julia_yeates AT yahoo.co.uk.


  1. “Tashi” means lucky or fortunate in Tibetan (cf the greeting tashi delek). It’s also sometimes given as a name or nickname.

  2. The description you gave to the whole volume seems quite interesting.

  3. Wow, awesome link LH. Thanks so much for providing it to us.

  4. Tashi… I like it!
    Sounds a lot more reasonable than the Tookchay that I was struggling to adopt…
    and he DOES look like a Tashi…
    Thank You (tookchay!)

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