The connection between Pyu and Nungish

David Bradley D.Bradley at LATROBE.EDU.AU
Thu Aug 14 00:40:28 UTC 2014

Dear colleagues,

In a seminar presented at this university some years ago, Uwe Krech used data from the well-known Pyu face of the Myazedi or Rajkumar inscription dated 1112AD, and suggested a number of Shan etymologies for Pyu words in that inscription, such as a putative connection between a Pyu form and the SW Tai form  '20' *saaw. Such a connection is anachronistic and impossible, as at the time of the regular use of written Pyu, there could not have been contact between Pyu (conventionally viewed as being conquered by Nanzhao circa 832AD) and Shan (conventionally viewed as having arrived at the eastern edge of the plains of Upper Burma late in the Pagan period). Of course Pyu must have persisted as a subordinate language until the time of the Myazedi inscription, early in the Pagan period, for it to be written there; it is difficult to know exactly how long the language persisted in spoken form after that.

It appears that Uwe Krech has now reconsidered his earlier claim that Pyu was a form of Shan and/or contained numerous Shan loanwords, and now views it as a Tibeto-Burman language, as do all other scholars.

I am sorry if Uwe Krech has taken offense at my characterisation of his earlier views, and I am glad that he is now working on the important issue of the genetic position of Pyu using the more recently-located Pyu inscriptional corpus as well as the long-available Myazedi from a Tibeto-Burman perspective. I apologise for my earlier statement.

David Bradley

-----Original Message-----
From: The Tibeto-Burman Discussion List [mailto:tibeto-burman-linguistics at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] On Behalf Of uwe krech
Sent: Sunday, 10 August 2014 1:55 AM
Subject: The connection between Pyu and Nungish


Dear Prof. LaPolla,

I am writing you in your function as a/the senior organiser of the Tibeto-Burman Linguistics mailing list of The LinguistList internet portal ( <> / <> ,, etc.).

In my mail posted at this mailing list on 17 July 2014 I replied to David Bradley’s insulting allegation posted which he on 5 June 2014 and requested,

“…[I]f David Bradley is not able to provide serious evidence concerning my alleged claims within a fortnight – which he certainly will not be able to do, neither within a year nor within a still longer time span – I request that the staff of this mailing list attach a well-visible tag to the relevant statement of Bradley calling it what it is: a malicious lie.”

As the staff of this mailing list in charge then informed me that my mail was forwarded to you the same day. Yet, although Bradley has not been able to provide evidence for his allegations towards me in the meantime – as predicted – sadly I could figure out no relevant correction in the archive of this mailing list so far. As I have no intention to disturb the archive, I suggested a correction in form of a tag (see the quotation above) but any alternative clear and unmistakable correction of Bradley’s allegation I would welcome too. So far I have not assumed that this mailing list supports Bradley’s lies; but this would change, of course, if there would be no clear and unmistakable correction.

Prof. LaPolla, may I quote your defense of your own position in your recent paper “Once Again on Person Marking in Tibeto-Burman: A Reply to DeLancey 2010” (2012):

“DeLancey’s most recent paper on this question (2010) misrepresents my views, claiming that I have changed my position and moved closer to his view, but I have not changed my view at all, and in fact have found much evidence to support my original suggestions.

The paper makes it seem as if DeLancey came up with the idea of the systems being hierarchical, and that he has now convinced me of that fact, when actually it was the other way around.

The paper misrepresents my approach and reasons for positing the Rung branch, and assumes that any language that has a velar nasal 1st person marker qualifies as belonging to Rung, and states that I posited Rung just as a way to put all of the languages with person marking into one branch, calling it a “grab-bag”, but that is a major misrepresent­ation. This shows DeLancey has not understood or is ignoring my methodology.”

And so on. Though I had no time to check all relevant issues among the several pieces of writing of concern, I find this reply legitimate in principle.

Similar to your case, I am upset about the vicious allegation of Bradley towards me and my work as mentioned above. – There is a notable difference, however. Bradleys allegation is markedly more serious, because it includes a personal level: it is clearly insulting. Bradley underlined this in his above-mentioned posting unequivocally: “Krech is completely off the planet about Pyu…”.

I have never maintained that “Pyu” was allegedly Shan, as Bradley claimed me to have done. That is why I cannot tolerate the above-mentioned posting of Bradley in its present state, viz. without some hint or the like that corrects Bradley's statement. (If I would state that Bradley had made the same claim, this statement would have exactly the same truth value as Bradley’s allegation.) When hearing of Bradley’s allegation, you, Prof. LaPolla, must actually be startled, as you attended not only my first presentation on the decipherment and interpretation of the “Pyu” text of the Myazedi inscriptions, which I gave – on your invitation – at La Trobe University, Melbourne, on 01 May 2008. You attended also a later presentation of mine on the same topic (though with much revised content) at ICSTLL45, Nanyang University, Singapore, on 27 October 2012. In neither of these two presentations I stated anything close to Bradley allegation. If this does not suffice to convince you, please read my article “A Preliminary Reassessment of the Pyu Faces of the Myazedi inscriptions at Pagan” in Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages IV (2012). Though this article, which reflects essentially the state of my research at the end of 2010 (i.e. roughly halftime between the twp presentations), is outdated in some respects (particularly with respect to the section of my detailed interpretation of the extant “Pyu” text), you will not find any piece of evidence there that would confirm Bradley’s vicious allegation. After now more than five years of intensive investigation the “Pyu” text of the Myazedi inscriptions and its relations to other languages of the Burma area and its periphery I am probably that person on this planet who has the most thorough knowledge of this epigraph, its underlying *language, and the connections of the latter with other individual languages and language groupings.

Bradley seems to have overlooked that my statements relate first and foremost exclusively to the so-called “Pyu” text of the Myazedi inscriptions and its underlying *language – and not at all to a currently purely hypothetical **single “Pyu” language that some prematurely believe to underly the non-Indo-Aryan “Pyu” inscriptions in general. (As you know, the present state of “Pyu” research is extremely desolate. We are still far from a state that would allow us to confirm or reject with any certainty that the non-Indo-Aryan “Pyu” inscriptions might represent this *single underlying language – not to mention the unknown **traits of this currently purely fictitious **language. In essence, the hypothesis of a **single general “Pyu” language boils down to a – beginner-level – confusion between script and language – in which regard Bradley is no exception at all among the distinguished linguists that commented on “Pyu”.) Given this background, Bradley’s confusion between the two distinct linguistic “Pyu” taxons – one being real, the other merely hypothetical – becomes apparent. Hence, his allegation towards me reveals as being untenable for logical reasons. How could I claim that **“Pyu” was Shan if, at the time being, it is not even known whether a **single “Pyu” language has ever existed?!

Though Bradley’s knowledge of matters (Myazedi) “Pyu” is small, his arrogance is big. During the last two decades he repeatedly made statements regarding the affiliation of “Pyu”, i.e. that “Pyu” was a allegedly a Cakish language (Bradley used the pejorative term “Luish” instead of “Cakish”). Yet, he has never put forward any evidence in support of his claim. This, by the way, parallels many other statements he made in the respective papers on the genetic taxonomy of Tibeto-Burman languages. Certainly it is not Bradley’s fault that Tibeto-Burman taxonomy is in many respects problematic, varying in quality from one group to another, as you know. Yet, being the author of these articles it would have been Bradley’s responsibility to point these problems out in a clearly recognisable way – which he did not, as a rule. And in more obscure cases as “Pyu” he went even a step further and made things up, without evidence. (Although it will become apparent in full only when my thesis will eventually be available to the public, I may state already at this occasion that the *language underlying the Myazedi Pyu text is most likely no Cakish language; this unlikely option is in fact almost as unlikely as an alleged identification of the *Myazedi Pyu language with Shan.)

I must insist that some clear and unmistakable correction of Bradley’s posting of 5 June 2014 should be made now as indicated above; Bradley has had enough time to respond. I do not tolerate his insults, not on this mailing list nor elsewhere.

Yours, sincerely,

Uwe Krech

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