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Exploring deep-time relationships between cultural and genetic evolution in Northeast Asia

By Hiromi Matsumae, Patrick E. Savage, Peter Ranacher, Damián E. Blasi, Thomas E. Currie, Takehiro Sato, Atsushi Tajima, Steven Brown, Mark Stoneking, Kentaro K. Shimizu, Hiroki Oota, Balthasar Bickel

Posted 11 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/513929

Culture evolves in ways that are analogous to, but distinct from, genetic evolution. Previous studies have demonstrated correlations between genetic and cultural diversity at small scales within language families, but few studies have empirically investigated parallels between genetic and cultural evolution across multiple language families using a diverse range of cultural data. Here we report an analysis comparing cultural and genetic data from 13 populations from in and around Northeast Asia spanning 10 different language families/isolates. We construct distance matrices for language (grammar, phonology, lexicon), music (song structure, performance style), and genomes (genome-wide SNPs) and test for correlations among them. After controlling for spatial autocorrelation and recent contact, robust correlations emerge between genetic and grammatical distances. Our results suggest that grammatical structure might be one of the strongest cultural indicators of human population history, while also demonstrating differences among cultural and genetic relationships that highlight the complex nature of human cultural and genetic evolution.

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