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Genetic and Linguistic Affinities between Human Populations in Eurasia and West Africa

From: Human Biology
Volume 75, Number 3, June 2003
pp. 331-344 | 10.1353/hub.2003.0048


This study examines the relationship between genetic distance and linguistic affiliation for five regional sets of populations from Eurasia and West Africa. Human genetic and linguistic diversity have been proposed to be generally correlated, either through a direct link, whereby linguistic and genetic affiliations reflect the same past population processes, or an indirect one, where the evolution of the two types of diversity is independent but conditioned by the same geographical factors. By controlling for proximity, indirect correlations due to common geography are eliminated, and any residual relationships found are likely to reflect common linguistic-genetic processes. Clear relationships between genetic distances and linguistic relatedness are detectable in Europe and East and Central Asia, but not in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, or West Africa. We suggest that linguistic and genetic affiliations will only be correlated under specific conditions, such as where there have been large-scale demic diffusions in the last few thousand years, and relative sedentism in the subsequent period.

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