The relationships between genetic and linguistic diversities are mainly caused by underlying historical and geographical factors which shape them in parallel ways, and do not, therefore, reflect genetic influences on language. However, it has recently been proposed (Dediu & Ladd, 2007) that causal links also exist between the genetic and linguistic typological diversities, whereby certain genetic variants (‘alleles’) can bias the individual acquisition and processing of language. At the population level, such biases could influence the process of language transmission across generations, resulting in typological differences between languages spoken by genetically different populations.

This novel hypothesis of genetic influences on language was explored for the particular case of linguistic tone and two brain growth related genes (ASPM and Microcephalin) using a statistical approach. The suggested relationship was found to hold even after controlling for geographical and historical factors.

The main aim of this postdoctoral fellowship is to enable the efficient dissemination of these findings and original methodology through academic publications, presentations at conferences and popular media, their integration into the larger context of human evolution, and a better understanding of their mechanisms and impact on language evolution (both experimentally and through modelling).

Start date
30 June 2007
End date
29 June 2008
Grant holder
Dr Dan Dediu
Grant amount
Grant reference
Linguistics (General)
Grant type