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Old 31st January 2015, 01:02 AM
PNGarrison PNGarrison is offline
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Comparison of worldwide phonemic and genetic variation in human populations

A little exotic for this venue, but in case someone else finds it interesting.

A comparison of worldwide phonemic and genetic
variation in human populations

Worldwide patterns of genetic variation are driven by human
demographic history. Here, we test whether this demographic
history has left similar signatures on phonemes—sound units that
distinguish meaning between words in languages—to those it has
left on genes. We analyze, jointly and in parallel, phoneme inventories
from 2,082 worldwide languages and microsatellite polymorphisms
from 246 worldwide populations. On a global scale, both
genetic distance and phonemic distance between populations are
significantly correlated with geographic distance. Geographically
close language pairs share significantly more phonemes than distant
language pairs, whether or not the languages are closely related. The
regional geographic axes of greatest phonemic differentiation correspond
to axes of genetic differentiation, suggesting that there is
a relationship between human dispersal and linguistic variation.
However, the geographic distribution of phoneme inventory sizes
does not follow the predictions of a serial founder effect during
human expansion out of Africa. Furthermore, although geographically
isolated populations lose genetic diversity via genetic drift,
phonemes are not subject to drift in the same way: within a given
geographic radius, languages that are relatively isolated exhibit
more variance in number of phonemes than languages with many
neighbors. This finding suggests that relatively isolated languages
are more susceptible to phonemic change than languages with
many neighbors. Within a language family, phoneme evolution
along genetic, geographic, or cognate-based linguistic trees predicts
similar ancestral phoneme states to those predicted from ancient
sources. More genetic sampling could further elucidate the relative
roles of vertical and horizontal transmission in phoneme evolution
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