- Proto-Sino-Tibetan: ?
- Proto-Tibeto-Burman: *s-la (Matisoff, STEDT)
This root is the eventual source of the words for "tea" in most non-Sino-Tibetan languages of the world, mostly borrowed from Chinese 茶. Two Chinese sources of borrowing are usually distinguished:
- the affricativised varieties (e.g. Beijing Mandarin, Guangzhou Cantonese): which pronounce 茶 with an affricate initial /t͡sʰ, ʈ͡ʂʰ/.
- the plosive varieties (e.g. Min Nan) /t/.
The Chinese word might have originally been a loan from Loloish (Tibeto-Burman) *la ("leaf, tea"), as tea may have originated in Sichuan (Lolo area) (Sagart, 1999). Alternatively, Qiu (2000) suggests that it was a semantic extension from the root *la, the name of a bitter plant (Sonchus oleraceus).
More at Tea#The word "tea" on Wikipedia.
- Old Chinese: 荼 /*rlaː, laː, ɦlja/ (ZS), /*lˁra, lˁa, l̥a/ (B-S; unlisted, theoretical) ("bitter taste vegetable; weed; white flower; poison, harm; tea")