A new study has suggested that our mother tongue may have come from our prehistoric father.
Peter Forster and Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge found that language change among our prehistoric ancestors came about via the arrival of immigrant men - rather than women - into new settlements, New Scientist reported.
AdvertisementThe language of some cultures correlates with a prehistoric influx of foreign males. This is still reflected in the genetics of people today.
Forster and Renfrew wondered if changes could be traced via maternal or paternal genes, by studying mitochondrial DNA or Y-chromosome genes, respectively.
In a meta-analysis of studies that linked genetic markers to cultural heritage in North and Central America, Iceland, Australia, Africa and New Guinea, they found that only Y-chromosome DNA reflected the cultural origins of the local language.
For example, Iceland was colonised by Norse Vikings with women kidnapped from the British Isles.
Most mitochondrial DNA found in Icelandic people today is similar to that in the British Isles, while Y-chromosomes carry Scandinavian DNA.
And the Icelandic language has Scandinavian roots, not English.
The finding suggests an interesting trend, but it is hard to identify a global pattern from this small selection of studies, stated evolutionary anthropologist Keith Hunley of the University of New Mexico.