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This Proto-Sino-Tibetan entry contains reconstructed words and roots. As such, the term(s) in this entry are not directly attested, but are hypothesized to have existed based on comparative evidence.




  • Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *g-sum (Coblin, 1986)
    • Proto-Tibeto-Burman: *g-sum (Matisoff, STEDT; Benedict, 1972; Chou, 1972; LaPolla, 1987)

This is perhaps the most stable numeral in Proto-Sino-Tibetan, with virtually no daughter language failing to show some reflex of this root. This stability can be attributed to various factors: the stability of the consonants "s" and "m", and the saliency of the numeral THREE itself. The velar prefix g/k- is the only prefix reconstructable for this root (another manifestation of well-preservedness); this is of course disregarding other prefixes in modern languages which resulted from an innovative prefix run in all of the lower numerals, for example Jingpho (m- in 3-5).

Some languages also show /a/ vocalism (e.g. Chinese), which some dismiss (somewhat unconvincingly) as secondary development. It is very likely that ablaut of *u ~ *a existed in the proto-language, i.e. *g-sum ⪤ *g-sam, analogous to *b-suŋ ~ b-saŋ (fragrance) (Matisoff, 1997).



  1. three


  • Old Chinese: /*srum/ ("three"), /*s.rəm-s/ ("thrice")
    Note: The initial *sr- in Old Chinese irregularly developed into Middle Chinese *s- (not the expected *ʃ-), possibly due to influence by the next numeral (*s.l- > s-) (⇒ *b-ləj), FOUR.
    • Middle Chinese: (sɑm, sɑmH)

         Japanese:   (さん, ​san)
            Korean:   (, sam)
            Vietnamese:  tam ()

         Proto-Tai:  *saːm (three) (whence Thai สาม (sǎam), Lao ສາມ (sām))

      • Mandarin
        • Beijing: ("three") (sān, /san⁵⁵/)
        • Chengdu: /san⁵⁵/
      • Cantonese
        • Guangzhou: /säːm⁵⁵/
        • Taishan: /ɬam³³/
      • Hakka
        • Sixian: /sam²⁴/
        • Meixian: /sam⁴⁴/
      • Wu
        • Shanghai: /se̞⁵³/
    • Min
      • Min Bei
        Jian'ou: /saŋ⁵⁴/
      • Min Dong
        Fuzhou: /saŋ⁵⁵/
      • Min Nan
        Quanzhou: /sã³³/ (colloquial), /sam³³/ (literary)
        Xiamen, Zhangzhou, Kaohsiung, Taipei: /sã⁴⁴/ (colloquial), /sam⁴⁴/ (literary)
        Teochew: /sã³³/ (colloquial), /sam³³/ (literary)
  • Kamarupan
    • "North Assam"
      • Tani
        /*ɦum/ ("three") (Sun, 1993)
    • Kuki-Chin
      /*thum/ ("three") (VanBik, 2009)
      • Central Chin
        • Lushai [Mizo]: thum (three)
    • "Naga"
      • Northern Naga/Konyak
        *C̬-sum (three) (French, 1983)
      • Tangkhulic
        /*tʰum/ ("three") (Mortensen, 2012)
  • Himalayish
    • Tibeto-Kanauri
      • Bodic
        • Tibetan
          • Written Tibetan: གསུམ (gsum, three)
            • Modern Tibetan (Lhasa): /sum˥˥/
      • Lepcha: ᰠᰦᰮ (sám, three)
      • Tamangic/West Bodish
        *ᴮsom (three) (Mazaudon, 1994)
    • Newar
      • Newar (Dolakhali): सों (, three)
      • Newar (Kathmandu): सो (swɔ, three)
    • Mahakiranti
  • Tangut-Qiang
    • Northern Tangut
      • Tangut: 𘕕 (sọ, /*so⁵⁵/, three)
    • rGyalrongic
  • Jingpho-Asakian
    • Jingpho
      • Jingpho [Kachin]: masum (three)
  • Lolo-Burmese-Naxi
    • Lolo-Burmese
      • Burmish
      • Loloish: *C-sum² (three) (Bradley, 1979)
        • Northern Loloish
          • Yi (Liangshan): (suo, three)
        • Central Loloish
          • Lisu (Southern): ꓢꓺ (sa, three) (ꓢꓽ () / ꓢꓼ (sà) before most mid tone classifiers)
  • Karen: *səmᴬ (three) (Luangthongkum, 2013)
    • Sgaw: သၢ (, three)
  • Baic
    • Bai: sanl (three)