TAI KADAI (Nang Joya Buragohain)

“Kao se pai ti moung dun chunk ham, daiy, Nuk feu pai phrom dai tun mai” –

                                                                                                                                                              -                                                                                                                   Chow Lung Suokaafaa
As early as 1942, Paul k. Benedict in his article “Tai-Kadai-Indonesian: A New Alighment in South-eastern Asia,” propounded a radical concept on the relationship of the Tai languages with the Chinese. Previous to this it was universally held by most linguists that the Tai languages belong to Sino-Siamese branch of the great Tibeto-Burman Language family. In other words, it was believed that Tai languages were genetically related to the Chinese. George Abraham Grierson followed this classification and placed the Tai languages under the Siamese-Chinese branch, and the Ahom language under the northern sub-branch of Tai branch. W. Schmidt also followed this classification. Rober Shafer in one of his articles published in word under title “The Classification of Sino Tibetan Languages,” however, explains that the division into “Chinese-Siamese” eastern sub-family and “Tibeto-Burman” western sub-family of the Sino-Tibetan Family of Language is a world-wide misconception occurred due to two distinguished scholars working on opposite sides of the area and almost their total ignorance of the languages in their colleagues” field. Henri Maspero, then last great scholar to hold to the Siamse Chinese division was a product of E. F. E. O. at Hanoi. He published a brilliant work in Chinese and Daic (Tai) languages. Since he knew the two languages, he found some resemblances between them. It is this fact that led to the putting of the Tai languages in the Chinese family. But Maspero knew practically nothing about te Tibeto-Burman languages. On the hand, Sten Konow, a Norweigian scholar primarily interested in Iranic languages engaged by the British Govt. to handle the non Aryan languages for the Linguistic Survey of India. But he had little to do with the Chinese and the Tai.
            It is for the first time Georges Coedes and Henry Burnay evinced a healthy skepticism of the Chinese-Thai relationship. But Benedict’s article created a radical thinking in the classification of Tai and Chinese languages have common words in them, they are due to mutual borrowings, which occurred due to the fact the speakers of the two languages lived side by side for a very long time.
             According to Benedict, the Tai and Chinese languages have relations of mutual borrowings in the following areas :-
1.     Numerals : The Tai numerals from “3” to “10” and “100” are Chinese. Thus-
Chinese                    Tai                    English
Sam                           sam                   3
Tsi                              si                       4
Nguo                          ha                     5
Liuk                           hok                   6
Tsiet                          tsit                    7
Pvet                           pet                    8
Kieu                           kau                   9
Zip                              sip                    10
Pak                            pak                   100

2.     Words relating to parts of the body :
Pa                               pha                    palm of the hand
Nga                             ngs                     molar teeth

3.     Animal names :
Ma                              ma                     horse
An                               an                      saddle
K’I                               khi                    to ride
Siang                          chang               elephant
Kiai                             kai                    fowl
Ngieu                          ngu                   bull/ox/cow
Tuo                             to                       hare
Piwong                       phrung             bee
Ngan                           han                    goose
Kieu                            ke                      pigeon

4.     Metals, articles :
Ngien                          ngun                 silver
Tsia                             chi                     paper
Mak                             muk                  ink
Bai                               bai                     leaf/sheet            
             On the other hand he showed that the Tai languages are linked with Indonesian through a group of languages known as Kadai is a new creation of Bendict which comprises the Li dialect of Hainan Island, the Ke-Lao language of south central China, and Laqua and La-ti languages of the China-Vietnam border region. The Kadai has been compounded from Dai, one of the forms of Li and Ka prefix found in La Lqua, Kadau, Ke-Lao and Katsu. According to him Kadai is traditional member through whom one can reach Indonesian-Astronesian language family. He showed that the Indonesian mata meaning “eye” is Tai ta also meaning “eye”  due to dropping of initial ma. In the same way, Indonesian hltam meaning “black” is Tai tan/dam also meaning “black” due to the dropping of initial hi. Where direct linkage between Tai and Indonesian is not feasible that can be reached via Kadai.
              Benedict’s Tai-Kadai hypothesis helped in delinking Tai from Chinese. His theory has also been accepted b scholars who now term the Tai language as TAI-KADAI and also the people as TAI-KADAI as done in Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia edited by Frank m. LeBar and others.
Selected bibliography :
Benedict, Pauk k. : “Thai-Kadai-Indonesian:
A New Alignment in South-eastern Asia, American Anthropologist,  1942, 44, pp, 576-601. Sino Tibetan : A Concectus, Cambridge University, 1972
Chamberlain, James R. : “A New Look at the History and Classification of Tai Languages, “Studies in Tai Linguistics, 1975,pp 49-66.
Egerod, Storen : “A Note on some Chinese Numerals as Loan Words in Tai “Toung Pao, 57, 1/2, pp. 67-74.
Forrest, R.A.D. : The Chinese Language, London, 1948.
Grierson, Sir George Abraham : Linguistic Survey of India.
LeBar, Frank M. etal. (ed.) : Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia,
Human Relations Area Files press, 1964.
Shafter, Rober : “Classification of the Sino-Tibetan Languages,” Word, 2, 1955, pp. 94-111.