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Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2013 Dec;7(6):618-23. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2013.08.009. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Linguistic isolates in Portugal: insights from the mitochondrial DNA pattern.

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  • 1Unitat d'Antropologia Biològica, Departament BABVE, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:


Miranda do Douro, located in the northeastern region of Portugal, has notable characteristics not only from a geographic or naturalistic point of view, but also from a cultural perspective. A remarkable one is the coexistence of two different languages: Portuguese and Mirandese, the second being an Astur-Leonese dialect. The current persistence of the Astur-Leonese dialect in this population falls on the singularity of the region: relative isolation, implying difficulties to communicate with other Portuguese regions, while the same location facilitated the establishment of social and commercial relationships with adjacent Spanish territories, origin of the Astur-Leonese language. The objective of this study was to characterize the population from Miranda through the analysis of maternal lineages in order to evaluate whether its mitochondrial DNA diversity fitted the patterns previously reported for other populations from the Iberian Peninsula. Viewing that, the entire control region of mitochondrial DNA from 121 individuals was examined. Miranda showed a haplogroup composition usual for a Western European population, in the sense that as high as 63.6% of sequences belonged to macro-haplogroup R0. Lineages ascribed to have an African (L2a and L1b) origin, were detected, but reaching an amount commonly found in Portugal. Miranda also presented a few haplogroups typically found in Jewish populations, while rarely observed in other Iberian populations. The finding can be explained by gene flow with crypto-Jew communities that since long are known to be established in the region where Miranda is located. In Miranda, both genetic and nucleotide diversities presented low values (0.9292 ± 0.0180 and 0.01101 ± 0.00614 respectively) when compared to populations from its micro-geographical framework, which constitute a sign of population isolation that certainly provided conditions for the survival of the Astur-Leonese dialect in the region.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Haplogroup; Haplotype; Iberian populations; Language; Regions; Substructure

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