Here the Proto-Sino-Tibetan for eight is reconstructed as *t-r'iat, but no explanation is given as to why.

  • 1
    a question perhaps better suited for the linguistics stackexchange – 小奥利奥 Mar 14 at 21:10
  • I'm not sure what reconstruction they're giving - it doesn't seem to provide a reference? Wiktionary shows something quite different, and are all referenced - *b-r-gjat ~ b-g-rjat – dROOOze Mar 14 at 21:40

Going on a hunch, the only database (that I knew of) which provided lots of conjectures on long-range etymology was Sergei Starostin's Tower of Babel Etymology Databases. One can quickly check in their Sino-Tibetan etymology database (STED) that many of the columns in Wikipedia's Proto-Sino-Tibetan (Proto-ST) row in the table seem to correspond to Proto-Kuki-Chin (Proto-KC).

The following is a list of reconstructions, taken from STED, for Proto-ST and Proto-KC:

Meaning Proto-ST (Starostin1,3) Proto-KC (Shafer2,3) Proto-ST (Wikipedia)
two *(k-)nĭj(-s, -ks) *k-hnis *k-nyis
three *sɨ̄m *k-in-thum *k-t'um
four *(p-)lĭj *b-n-d'-li *p-li
six *rŭk *t-r1uk *(t-, k-)r'uk
seven *(s-)nĭt *s-Nis *s.Nis
eight *(p-)rjēt *t-r1iat *t-r'iat
nine *kʷɨ̆H *tV-kua *t-kua

1 Proto-ST based on Starostin 1989 (Реконструкция древнекитайскойфонологической системы)
2 Proto-KC based on Robert Shafer's reconstruction
3 See STED description for details

You'll have to look into Shafer's publications to understand the notation fully, but I believe that Shafer did indeed reconstruct Proto-KC eight with an alveolar stop prefix. This corresponds nicely to Berkeley's STEDT for eight, where, underneath the Northeastern Indian Areal Group, the Proto Kuki form was also reconstructed with an alveolar stop prefix (*d-ryat).

Anyway - I'm not sure if Wikipedia's Proto-ST entries are actually Proto-ST, you might get some answers, or some citations, if you raise an issue on that page's discussion.

  1. There has never been an attempt in reconstructing Proto-Sino-Tibetan (PST, Chin. 漢藏語) for eight. What is shown in the link is perhaps a mislabel for another reconstruction, or an unreferenced, dubious attempt in PST reconstruction.

  2. There were only five referenced Proto-Tibeto-Burman (PTB, Chin. 藏緬語) reconstructions. PTB for eight is *b-r-gyat ⪤ *b-g-ryat. They are recognised as cognates.

  3. The difference between PTB and PST is that Sinitic languages are excluded in the reconstruction of PTB. That does not mean, however, that there is no comparability between PTB and Chinese, as shown below.

  4. From Wiktionary: 'This is a doubly prefixed root, justified mainly by Written Tibetan, Jingpho and Rgyalrong forms. As expected, this root was particularly prone to metathesis and preemption. The Chinese form, for example, shows preemption of the rest of the initial cluster by the labial prefix, resulting in a *pr- > p- initial.' (As in pˤret > peat from Old to Middle Chinese.)

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