The Sino-Tibetan languages, comprising Chinese and Tibeto-Burman (TB), constitute one of the great language families of the world, with well over a billion speakers. Yet they remain poorly understood; indeed, some branches of the TB family are still virtually unstudied. To fill this vacuum in historical linguistic research, the STEDT (Sino-Tibetan Etymological Dictionary and Thesaurus) project was started in 1987, charged with gathering data from both extant published works and the growing body of fieldwork and integrating them into a coherent whole. The ultimate goal of the project is the publication of an etymological dictionary of the ancestor language, Proto-Sino-Tibetan, spoken perhaps 6000 years ago. The Dictionary is organized by semantic fields, so it will constitute a 'thesaurus' of PST.
A large computer database of etymological and lexicographic information has been created to support the research required to publish the Dictionary. At this point about 70,000 morphemes in the lexical file (ca. 20%) have been etymologized into cognate sets. The first Fascicle of Vol. I (Body-part Terminology) has been approved for publication. Preparation of the subsequent Fascicles and Volumes is proceeding concurrently.
In the new grant period, a series of phonologically organized Historical/Comparative Handbooks will be prepared for the various subgroups of the TB family, beginning with Lolo-Burmese. This will allow the rigorous formulation of sound-laws and the refinement of our 'Sound-law Data-base', against which future reconstructions may be tested. In this manner the STEDT project will proceed both along semantic and phonological lines. In order to provide the linguistic community with access to data and results in a timely fashion, the project will move towards publication via CD-ROM and the WWW. Along with the fascicles of the Dictionary itself, electronic versions of other STEDT publications will quickly be made available, including published volumes of the STEDT Monograph Series and back issues of our semiannual journal Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area.