Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa

  title={Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa},
  author={Quentin Douglas Atkinson},
  pages={346 - 349}
Analysis of word sounds suggests that language originated once, in central and southern Africa. Human genetic and phenotypic diversity declines with distance from Africa, as predicted by a serial founder effect in which successive population bottlenecks during range expansion progressively reduce diversity, underpinning support for an African origin of modern humans. Recent work suggests that a similar founder effect may operate on human culture and language. Here I show that the number of… 
Support for a linguistic serial founder effect originating in Africa
Present African languages have some of the largest phonemic inventories in the world. In contrast, languages with the smallest inventories are spoken in South America and Oceania1. The latter were
Can a linguistic serial founder effect originating in Africa explain the worldwide phonemic cline?
A model that simulates the human range expansion out of Africa and the subsequent spatial linguistic dynamics until today agrees with the observed decrease of linguistic diversity with increasing distance from the most likely origin of the out-of-Africa dispersal.
Rejection of a serial founder effects model of genetic and linguistic coevolution
It is shown that phoneme inventories provide information about recent contacts between languages, however, because phonemes change rapidly, they cannot providing information about more ancient evolutionary processes.
Dating the Origin of Language Using Phonemic Diversity
This work uses a natural experiment, the colonization of Southeast Asia and Andaman Islands, to estimate the rate at which phonemic diversity increases through time, and estimates that present-day languages date back to the Middle Stone Age in Africa.
Comment on “Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa”
Analyses using raw data without simplification suggest a decline from central Asia rather than from Africa, while Atkinson reported a declined trend of phonemic diversity from Africa that indicated the African exodus of modern languages.
Comment on “Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa”
It is shown that Atkinson’s intriguing proposal—that global linguistic diversity supports a single language origin in Africa—is an artifact of using suboptimal data, biased methodology, and unjustified assumptions.
A comparison of worldwide phonemic and genetic variation in human populations
The results show that migration within geographic regions shapes phoneme evolution, although human expansion out of Africa has not left a strong signature on phonemes, and suggests that relatively isolated languages are more susceptible to phonemic change than languages with many neighbors.
On phonemic diversity and the origin of language in Africa
Quentin Atkinson (2011) proposes a theory with the important implication that human language originates and expands from Africa. His theory, however, does not seem fully convincing as it stands
Response to Comment on “Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa”
Jaeger et al. use statistical simulations to show that the serial founder effect analysis I reported has an inflated type 1 error rate. Crucially, however, their simulations also reveal that the
The geographical configuration of a language area influences linguistic diversity
Like the transfer of genetic variation through gene flow, language changes constantly as a result of its use in human interaction. Contact between speakers is most likely to happen when they are


The effect of ancient population bottlenecks on human phenotypic variation
It is shown that the loss in genetic diversity has been mirrored by a loss in phenotypic variability, and evidence is found for an African origin, placed somewhere in the central/southern part of the continent, which harbours the highest intra-population diversity in phenotypesic measurements.
Languages Evolve in Punctuational Bursts
This work used vocabulary data from three of the world's major language groups to show that 10 to 33% of the overall vocabulary differences among these languages arose from rapid bursts of change associated with language-splitting events.
Inferring population histories using cultural data
The question as to whether cultures evolve in a manner analogous to that of genetic evolution can be addressed by attempting to reconstruct population histories using cultural data. As others have
mtDNA variation predicts population size in humans and reveals a major Southern Asian chapter in human prehistory.
Estimates of relative population sizes show remarkable concordance with the contemporary regional distribution of humans across Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas, indicating that mtDNA diversity is a good predictor of population size in humans.
Linguistic and social typology: The Austronesian migrations and phoneme inventories
Abstract There is a challenging issue for linguistic typology which involves the relationships which might exist between societal type and aspects of linguistic structure. Linguistic-typological
Support from the relationship of genetic and geographic distance in human populations for a serial founder effect originating in Africa.
It is found that heterozygosities in the globally distributed populations of the data set are best explained by an expansion originating in Africa and that no geographic origin outside of Africa accounts as well for the observed patterns of genetic diversity.
Human origins: Out of Africa
  • I. Tattersall
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2009
Modern humans appear to have definitively exited Africa to populate the rest of the globe only after both their physical and cognitive peculiarities had been acquired within that continent.
Climate shaped the worldwide distribution of human mitochondrial DNA sequence variation
It is shown that populations living in colder environments have lower mitochondrial diversity and that the genetic differentiation between pairs of populations correlates with difference in temperature, the first direct test of the relative extent to which climate and past demography have shaped the current spatial distribution of mtDNA sequences worldwide.