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Languages, history and human adaptation

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Title: Languages, history and human adaptation


1
Languages, history and human adaptation
  • Clare Holden
  • UCL

2
Why languages?
  • Cultural or ethnic marker
  • 6000 languages (ethno-linguistic groups)
  • 20-200 families
  • Population history
  • Language trees and networks
  • Evolution of cultural diversity
  • Empirical yet formal approach

3
Curiously parallel
Evolutionary biology
Historical linguistics
Species Genetic units of transmission Languages Linguistic elements, e.g. words
Reproduction Learning, often parent-offspring
Horizontal transmission Borrowing
Hybridisation Creoles
Charles Darwin (1859, 1871)
August Schleicher (Indo-European, 1862)
4
Linguistic data(basic vocabulary)
X Z S N
Binary coding Belly
Multistate coding
Ashes Belly Bird
Xhosa 1 1 1
Zulu 1 1 2
Sotho 1 2 3
Ndau 1 3 3
v1 v2 v3
Xhosa 1 0 0
Zulu 1 0 0
Sotho 0 1 0
Ndau 0 0 1
5
Bantu language trees
  • Bayesian MCMC sample

Holden and Gray, in press Holden, Pagel and
Meade, 2005
6
Bantu network
East Bantu
West Bantu
Central Bantu
SW Bantu
Holden and Gray, in press
7
Ancestral states Spread of cattle among
Bantu-speakers
Mace and Holden 2005
8
Co-evolution
  • Testing adaptive hypotheses
  • Do two traits co-evolve along branches of tree?
  • Cultural, genetic, environmental traits
  • Bantu-speakers
  • Spread of cattle led to the loss of matrilineal
    descent
  • Indo-Europeans
  • Marriage payments co-evolve with monogamy/
    polygyny

9
How fast is cultural change?
  • Gain/ loss of trait over time, e.g. 500 yrs
  • Calibrate tree using archaeological dates

Matri lost P0.83
Matriliny Cattle
Patriliny/mixed Cattle
Matri gained P0.01
Cattle gained P0.19
Cattle lost P0.81
Cattle gained P0.03
Cattle lost P0.18
Matri lost P0.22
Matriliny Cattle absent
Patriliny/ mixed Cattle absent
Matri gained P0.35
Holden and Mace (2003, 2005)
10
Origin of dowry in Indo-Europeans
Laura Fortunato, UCL
11
Summary
  • Language trees and networks
  • Phylogenetic methods
  • Population/cultural history
  • Reconstructing other cultural traits on trees
  • Testing co-evolutionary hypotheses
  • Rate of cultural evolution

12
Acknowledgements
  • Laura Fortunato, UCL
  • Russell Gray, University of Auckland
  • Ruth Mace, UCL
  • Andrew Meade, University of Reading
  • Mark Pagel, University of Reading
  • AHRB Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of
    Culture, UCL
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • The Marsden Trust, New Zealand
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