Genetic and linguistic evolution and coevolution

Published on March 18, 2015   47 min

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Other Talks in the Series: Human Population Genetics II

Hello, my name is Keith Hunley. I'm a genetic anthropologist in the evolutionary anthropology subfield of the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Genetic anthropologists apply methods from statistical genetics to diverse types of data to examine the nature, evolutionary causes, and larger social and scientific meaning of the structure of human diversity. My research interests include human origins and dispersal. And I've been studying the topic of today's lecture, gene-language coevolution, for about 12 years.
This is the outline for the lecture. I'll begin with some background about the theoretical underpinnings and rationale for studies of gene-language coevolution.
In 1859, the comparative method for studying the development of languages was still emerging. Controversial hypotheses had been developed about the relationships among Indo-European languages. But there was no consensus about these relationships or the methods used for determining them. This quote illustrates Darwin's thinking about this problem and a potential solution. Human races had undergone a process of descent with modification from a single common ancestor. And their languages must have evolved in concert with those races. So if we possess a perfect pedigree of mankind, a genealogical arrangement of the races of man would afford the best classification of the various languages now spoken throughout the world.
As Darwin saw it, there was a single common ancestral group that underwent a series of splits followed by independent or nearly independent evolution. In isolation, genes and languages coevolved. And if you knew one classification, you knew the other. I will refer to this splitting and independent evolution process as a tree-like process, or as treeness throughout the lecture. And I also will refer to congruent gene and language trees.

Genetic and linguistic evolution and coevolution

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