A global analysis of matches and mismatches between human genetic and linguistic histories

Article


Barbieri, Chiara, Blasi, Damian E., Arango-Isaza, Epifania, Sotiropoulos, Alexandros G., Hammarstrom, Harald, Wichmann, Soren, Greenhill, Simon J., Gray, Russell D., Forkel, Robert, Bickel, Balthasar and Shimizu, Kentaro K.. 2022. "A global analysis of matches and mismatches between human genetic and linguistic histories." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 119 (47), p. e2122084119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2122084119
Article Title

A global analysis of matches and mismatches between human genetic and linguistic histories

Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsBarbieri, Chiara, Blasi, Damian E., Arango-Isaza, Epifania, Sotiropoulos, Alexandros G., Hammarstrom, Harald, Wichmann, Soren, Greenhill, Simon J., Gray, Russell D., Forkel, Robert, Bickel, Balthasar and Shimizu, Kentaro K.
Journal TitleProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Journal Citation119 (47), p. e2122084119
Number of Pagese2122084119
Year2022
PublisherNational Academy of Sciences
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISSN0027-8424
1091-6490
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2122084119
Web Address (URL)https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2122084119
Abstract

Human history is written in both our genes and our languages. The extent to which our biological and linguistic histories are congruent has been the subject of considerable debate, with clear examples of both matches and mismatches. To disentangle the patterns of demographic and cultural transmission, we need a global systematic assessment of matches and mismatches. Here, we assemble a genomic database (GeLaTo, or Genes and Languages Together) specifically curated to investigate genetic and linguistic diversity worldwide. We find that most populations in GeLaTo that speak languages of the same language family (i.e., that descend from the same ancestor language) are also genetically highly similar. However, we also identify nearly 20% mismatches in populations genetically close to linguistically unrelated groups. These mismatches, which occur within the time depth of known linguistic relatedness up to about 10,000 y, are scattered around the world, suggesting that they are a regular outcome in human history. Most mismatches result from populations shifting to the language of a neighboring population that is genetically different because of independent demographic histories. In line with the regularity of such shifts, we find that only half of the language families in GeLaTo are genetically more cohesive than expected under spatial autocorrelations. Moreover, the genetic and linguistic divergence times of population pairs match only rarely, with Indo-European standing out as the family with most matches in our sample. Together, our database and findings pave the way for systematically disentangling demographic and cultural history and for quantifying processes of shifts in language and social identities on a global scale.

Keywordscultural evolution; languages; molecular anthropology; population genetics
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020310408. Life histories
310501. Anthropological genetics
470499. Linguistics not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Zurich, Switzerland
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Germany
Harvard University, United States
Yale University, United States
Uppsala University, Sweden
Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel, Germany
University of Auckland, New Zealand
Yokohama City University, Japan
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