The common belief that we speak our mother’s tongue is incorrect—we speak our father’s tongue. Geneticists have found interesting linguistic and geographical affinities for the Y-chromosome. In the box below, you’ll find one of the earlier studies to document this. Links to related research can be found in the references section at the end of the post.
Numerous population samples from around the world have been tested for Y chromosome-specific p49a,f/TaqI restriction polymorphisms. Here we review the literature as well as unpublished data on Y-chromosome p49a,f/TaqI haplotypes and provide a new nomenclature unifying the notations used by different laboratories. We use this large data set to study worldwide genetic variability of human populations for this paternally transmitted chromosome segment. We observe, for the Y chromosome, an important level of population genetics structure among human populations (FST = .230, P < .001), mainly due to genetic differences among distinct linguistic groups of populations (FCT = .246, P < .001). A multivariate analysis based on genetic distances between populations shows that human population structure inferred from the Y chromosome corresponds broadly to language families (r = .567, P < .001), in agreement with autosomal and mitochondrial data. Times of divergence of linguistic families, estimated from their internal level of genetic differentiation, are fairly concordant with current archaeological and linguistic hypotheses. Variability of the p49a,f/TaqI polymorphic marker is also significantly correlated with the geographic location of the populations (r = .613, P < .001), reflecting the fact that distinct linguistic groups generally also occupy distinct geographic areas. Comparison of Y-chromosome and mtDNA RFLPs in a restricted set of populations shows a globally high level of congruence, but it also allows identification of unequal maternal and paternal contributions to the gene pool of several populations.
Mirabal S et al. (2009) Y-chromosome distribution within the geo-linguistic landscape of northwestern Russia. European Journal of Human Genetics, 17:1260–1273. ↲
Karafet TM et al. (2002) High levels of Y-chromosome differentiation among native Siberian populations and the genetic signature of a boreal hunter-gatherer way of life. Human Biology, 74(6):761–89. ↲
Zegura SL et al. (2004) High-resolution SNPs and microsatellite haplotypes point to a single, recent entry of Native American Y chromosomes into the Americas. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 21(1):164–75. ↲
Hurles ME et al. (2002) Y chromosomal evidence for the origins of oceanic-speaking peoples. Genetics, 160(1):289–303. ↲
Underhill PA et al. (2001) The phylogeography of Y chromosome binary haplotypes and the origins of modern human populations. Annals of Human Genetics, 65(Pt 1):43–62. ↲
Rosser ZH et al. (2000) Y-chromosomal diversity in Europe is clinal and influenced primarily by geography, rather than by language. American Journal of Human Genetics, 67(6):1526–43. ↲
Shen P et al. (2000) Population genetic implications from sequence variation in four Y chromosome genes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 97(13):7354–9. ↲
Underhill PA et al. (2000) Y chromosome sequence variation and the history of human populations. Nature Genetics, 26(3):358–61. ↲
Hammer MF et al. (1997) The geographic distribution of human Y chromosome variation. Genetics, 145(3):787–805. ↲