All the Sino-Tibetan languages I can think of are isolating. Are there any with a fusional or agglutinative morphology? If so, can you show some examples?

  • Can we have a link to a site that explains linguistic terms?
    – Phira
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 21:19
  • 2
    Hi thei, one of the best places is Wikipedia - it's concise but in-depth and relatively accurate!
    – LaurenG
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 21:51
  • 1
    Old Chinese is thought to have had inflections, which were later lost. Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 6:07

3 Answers 3


Aren't the Tibeto-Burman languages (under Sino-Tibetan) considered agglutinative?

The Tibeto-Burman languages include Tibetan, Burmese, and a number of other tongues, among which are the Bodo, Garo, and Lushai of Assam, the Kachin of Myanmar (Burma), and perhaps also the languages of the Chins and Nagas of Myanmar, the Karen tongues of Myanmar and Thailand, and the Lolo of SW China. Tibeto-Burman languages are likely to be tonal and have anywhere from two to six tones. They are less monosyllabic and isolating than the languages of the other Sino-Tibetan families. In fact, they tend to be somewhat agglutinative and exhibit some degree of inflection. In an agglutinative language, different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are joined to form one word. Affixes added to an unchanged root serve as the usual method of indicating inflection in the Tibeto-Burman tongues.


The Sino-Tibetan language family is rather large with around 450 languages (making it slightly larger than the Indo-European family by some counts). Within the Sino-Tibetan family you have the Tibeto-Burman family, which has around 430 members, making it a disproportionately large sub-family. The other 15 or so languages are in the Chinese family, which are those heavily isolating languages, but the majority of the Tibeto-Burman group are relatively agglutinating. Many of the Central Bodic languages I work on have at least affixed tense, aspect, negation, plurals and case marking.


Check Qiangic for example - a group of fairly agglutinative languages. There are many other non-isolating ST groups; moreover, the Proto-Sino-Tibetan itself is considered agglutinative by many scholars.

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