Languages, genes, and prehistory, with special reference to Europe
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and University of California Santa Barbara
One can readily recognize that there is no logical necessity for languages and genes to correlate. Genes are transmitted biologically from biological parent to biological offspring. Language (i.e. knowledge of a particular language) is transmitted culturally: a child will grow up speaking the language of the community in which it is brought up, irrespective of the language of its biological parents.It is an empirical question to what extent such social phenomena have disrupted the close correlation between language classification and population genetic classification in the history of humankind. One of the aims of the present article is to revisit this controversy. The issue is important, because some of the early recent work investigating the relations between linguistic and genetic trees, such as Cavalli‑Sforza et al. (1988), came to the conclusion that Darwin was basically right. In the present article, and in particular in Sections 2–4, I wish to investigate some instances that are more complex and suggest, with differing degrees of cogency, that populations may indeed have changed their language without changing their genes, thus leaving it as an empirical question for future investigation to what extent Darwin’s scenario versus Huxley’s scenario accounts for relevant aspects of human prehistory.