Exploring genomic and linguistic coevolution at a cross-continental scale: a syntactic approach.

Author(s): Eugenio Bortolini

Year: 2015


The dynamics of cultural change and transmission are consistently interwoven with processes of human interaction, demic movements, and population history (Cavalli-Sforza and Feldmann 1981, Boyd and Richerson 1985, Renfrew 1992). Linguistic and genetic coevolution was first envisaged by Darwin (1859) and subsequently addressed in several studies (Sokal 1988; Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1988; Belle and Barbujani 2007; Gray et al 2007; Bouckaert et al. 2012; de Filippo et al. 2012). However, traditional methods may not be adequate for reconstructing the history of language diversity at a global scale and across linguistic families (Heggarty 2004). These limitations can be overcome by focusing on syntactic parameters (Longobardi and Guardiano 2009). Such traits facilitate an effective comparison between worldwide linguistic and genetic diversity, the latter being supported by the recent availability of high-coverage whole genome sequences.

The present work shows that, at a cross-continental scale, linguistic transmission can be shaped by a variety of spatial and human factors, though demic processes underlying the distribution of present-day languages have left a signature in the current genetic landscape. Future investigations will focus on analysing this trace on a wider sample to clarify the interaction between genetic and linguistic markers at a global scale.

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Exploring genomic and linguistic coevolution at a cross-continental scale: a syntactic approach.. Eugenio Bortolini. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397851)

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