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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2007 Aug;133(4):1137-46.

Worldwide analysis of multiple microsatellites: language diversity has a detectable influence on DNA diversity.

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Dipartimento di Biologia ed Evoluzione, Università di Ferrara, Via Borsari, 46, 44100 Ferrara, Italy.


Previous studies of the correlations between the languages spoken by human populations and the genes carried by the members of those populations have been limited by the small amount of genetic markers available and by approximations in the treatment of linguistic data. In this study we analyzed a large collection of polymorphic microsatellite loci (377), distributed on all autosomes, and used Ruhlen's linguistic classification, to investigate the relative roles of geography and language in shaping the distribution of human DNA diversity at a worldwide scale. For this purpose, we performed three different kinds of analysis: (i) we partitioned genetic variances at three hierarchical levels of population subdivision according to language group by means of a molecular analysis of variance (AMOVA); (ii) we quantified by a series of Mantel's tests the correlation between measures of genetic and linguistic differentiation; and (iii) we tested whether linguistic differences are increased across known zones of increased genetic change between populations. Genetic differences appear to more closely reflect geographic than linguistic differentiation. However, our analyses show that language differences also have a detectable effect on DNA diversity at the genomic level, above and beyond the effects of geographic distance.

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