Cognates of Old Chinese *-n, *-r, and *-j in Tibetan and Burmese

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Hill, Nathan W. (2014)

Following a suggestion of Starostin (1989), Baxter & Sagart (2011) reconstruct *-n, *-j, and *-r as distinct finals in Old Chinese. These three finals have regular correspondences\ud in Tibetan and Burmese. The Trans-Himalayan proto-language distinguished *-n, *-j, *-r, *-l, and *-rl. Burmese loses *-r and generally loses *-l, except after -u-, where it changes to -y. Tibetan loses *-y and changes *-rl to -l. Chinese changes *-rl to *-r. Because Burmese shows different reflexes for *aj (-ay) and *əj (> -i), the merger of *ə and *a in Tibetan and Burmese are independent innovations; and this merger does not confirm a ‘Tibeto-\ud Burman’ subgroup (contra Handel 2008). These correspondences require confirmation through further research on evidence of *-r in the Min dialects and Han dynasty Buddhist transcriptions from Indic languages in Chinese characters.
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