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Exploring correlations in genetic and cultural variation across language families in northeast Asia


Matsumae, Hiromi; Ranacher, Peter; Savage, Patrick E; Blasi, Damián E; Currie, Thomas E; Koganebuchi, Kae; Nishida, Nao; Sato, Takehiro; Tanabe, Hideyuki; Tajima, Atsushi; Brown, Steven; Stoneking, Mark; Shimizu, Kentaro K; Oota, Hiroki; Bickel, Balthasar (2021). Exploring correlations in genetic and cultural variation across language families in northeast Asia. Science Advances, 7(34):eabd9223.

Abstract

Culture evolves in ways that are analogous to, but distinct from, genomes. Previous studies examined similarities between cultural variation and genetic variation (population history) at small scales within language families, but few studies have empirically investigated these parallels across language families using diverse cultural data. We report an analysis comparing culture and genomes from in and around northeast Asia spanning 11 language families. We extract and summarize the variation in language (grammar, phonology, lexicon), music (song structure, performance style), and genomes (genome-wide SNPs) and test for correlations. We find that grammatical structure correlates with population history (genetic history). Recent contact and shared descent fail to explain the signal, suggesting relationships that arose before the formation of current families. Our results suggest that grammar might be a cultural indicator of population history while also demonstrating differences among cultural and genetic relationships that highlight the complex nature of human history.

Abstract

Culture evolves in ways that are analogous to, but distinct from, genomes. Previous studies examined similarities between cultural variation and genetic variation (population history) at small scales within language families, but few studies have empirically investigated these parallels across language families using diverse cultural data. We report an analysis comparing culture and genomes from in and around northeast Asia spanning 11 language families. We extract and summarize the variation in language (grammar, phonology, lexicon), music (song structure, performance style), and genomes (genome-wide SNPs) and test for correlations. We find that grammatical structure correlates with population history (genetic history). Recent contact and shared descent fail to explain the signal, suggesting relationships that arose before the formation of current families. Our results suggest that grammar might be a cultural indicator of population history while also demonstrating differences among cultural and genetic relationships that highlight the complex nature of human history.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Special Collections > NCCR Evolving Language
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution
08 Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
08 Research Priority Programs > Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems
Dewey Decimal Classification:400 Language
410 Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:1 August 2021
Deposited On:25 Aug 2021 12:56
Last Modified:25 Aug 2021 12:56
Publisher:American Association for the Advancement of Science
ISSN:2375-2548
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abd9223
PubMed ID:34407936
Project Information:
  • : Funderstartup grants from the Keio Research Institute at SFC
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderURPP Evolution in Action, University of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID51NF40_180888
  • : Project TitleNCCR Evolving Language (phase I)
  • : FunderURPP Language and Space, University of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderURPP Evolution in Action, University of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID51NF40_180888
  • : Project TitleNCCR Evolving Language (phase I)
  • : FunderURPP Evolution in Action, University of Zurich
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title

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