First, we develop a lexical database of 180 basic vocabulary concepts from 50 languages.
The data were either directly collected in the field by ourselves or gathered from the literature with verification by external specialists whenever possible.
The past 10,000 y have seen the rise, at the western and eastern extremities of Eurasia, of the world’s two largest language families.
Together, these families account for nearly 60% of the world’s population: Indo-European (3.2 billion speakers) and Sino-Tibetan (1.4 billion).
A second group presents Sino-Tibetan basal topology as a rake, with Chinese being one of several primary branches (10).
A third group places Chinese in a lower-level subgroup with Tibetan (15, 16).
Our findings point to Sino-Tibetan originating with north Chinese millet farmers around 7200 B. and suggest a link to the late Cishan and the early Yangshao cultures.However, Sino-Tibetan diversity in India and Nepal may have been boosted by intimate contact with very divergent and mostly extinct non–Sino-Tibetan languages, in much the same way that Austronesian diversity in northwest Melanesia was boosted by contact with Papuan languages (11) despite their homeland in Taiwan (12).Due to these difficulties, no consensus exists about the phylogenetic relationships within the family.The area with the most diverse Sino-Tibetan languages is in northeastern India and Nepal.This has suggested to some authors that the family’s homeland was located there (10).