Human Genetics

, Volume 112, Issue 3, pp 255–261 | Cite as

Testing hypotheses of language replacement in the Caucasus: evidence from the Y-chromosome

  • Ivan NasidzeEmail author
  • Tamara Sarkisian
  • Azer Kerimov
  • Mark Stoneking
Original Investigation


A previous analysis of mtDNA variation in the Caucasus found that Indo-European-speaking Armenians and Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanians were more closely related genetically to other Caucasus populations (who speak Caucasian languages) than to other Indo-European or Turkic groups, respectively. Armenian and Azerbaijanian therefore represent language replacements, possibly via elite dominance involving primarily male migrants, in which case genetic relationships of Armenians and Azerbaijanians based on the Y-chromosome should more closely reflect their linguistic relationships. We therefore analyzed 11 bi-allelic Y-chromosome markers in 389 males from eight populations, representing all major linguistic groups in the Caucasus. As with the mtDNA study, based on the Y-chromosome Armenians and Azerbaijanians are more closely-related genetically to their geographic neighbors in the Caucasus than to their linguistic neighbors elsewhere. However, whereas the mtDNA results show that Caucasian groups are more closely related genetically to European than to Near Eastern groups, by contrast the Y-chromosome shows a closer genetic relationship with the Near East than with Europe.


Caucasus Population Eastern Population Eastern Group Caucasus Group Geographic Neighbor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Manfred Kayser for useful discussion, Peter Underhill for control DNA samples, and Hiltrud Schaedlich for technical assistance. This research was supported by funding from the Max Planck Society.


  1. Bertorelle G, Bertranpetit J, Calafell F, Nasidze I, Barbujani G (1995) Do Basque-speaking and Caucasian-speaking populations share non-Indo-European ancestors. Eur J Hum Genet 3:256–263PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Felsenstein J (1993) PHYLIP (phylogeny inference package) v. 3.5c. Department of Genetics, University of Washington, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  3. Gamkrelidze T, Ivanov V (1995) Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans. De Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  4. Hammer M, Horai S (1995) Y chromosomal DNA variation and the peopling of Japan. Am J Hum Genet 56:951–962PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Johanson L (1998) The history of Turkic. In: Johanson L, Csato E (eds) The Turkic languages. Routledge, London, pp 81–83Google Scholar
  6. Kayser M, Brauer S, Weiss G, Underhill PA, Roewer L, Schiefenhover W, Stoneking M (2000) Melanesian origin of Polynesian Y chromosome. Curr Biol 10:1237–1246PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Kruskal JB (1964) Multidimensional scaling by optimizing goodness of fit to a nonmetric hypothesis. Pyschometrika 29:1–27Google Scholar
  8. Maniatis T, Fritsh EF, Sambrook J (1982) Molecular clonning: a laboratory manual. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NYGoogle Scholar
  9. Masson VM, Merpert NJ (1982) Archaeology of USSR: Neolith of USSR. Nauka, Moscow, pp 93–164Google Scholar
  10. Miller SA, Dykes DD, Polesky HF (1988) A simple salting out procedure for extracting DNA from human nucleated cells. Nucleic Acids Res 16:1215PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Morin PA, Saiz R, Monjazeb A (1999) High-throughput single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping by fluorescent 5' exonuclease assay. BioTechniques 3:538–552Google Scholar
  12. Muskhelishvili D (1977) The main problems of Georgian historicalgeography. Metsniereba, TbilisiGoogle Scholar
  13. Nasidze I, Stoneking M (2001) Mitochondrial DNA variation and language replacements in the Caucasus. Proc R Soc Lond [Biol] 268:1197–1206Google Scholar
  14. Nasidze I, Risch GM, Robichaux M, Sherry ST, Batzer MA, Stoneking M (2001) Alu insertion polymorphisms and the genetic structure of human populations from the Caucasus. Eur J Hum Genet 9:267–272CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Renfrew C (1991) Before Babel: speculations on the origins of linguistic diversity. Cambridge Archaeol J 1:13–23Google Scholar
  16. Renfrew C (1992) Archaeology, genetics, and linguistic diversity. Man 27:445–478Google Scholar
  17. Ruhlen M (1991) A guide to the world's languages. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Schneider S, Roessli D, Excoffier L (2000) Arlequin v. 2000: a software for population genetic data analysis. Genetics and Biometry Laboratory, University of Geneva, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  19. Semino O, Passarino G, Oefner PJ, Lin AA, Arbuzova S, Beckman LE, De Benedictis G, et al (2000) The genetic legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in extant Europeans: a Y chromosome perspective. Science 290:1155–1159PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Underhill PA, Shen P, Lin AA, Jin L, Passarino G, Yang WH, Kauffman E, Bonne-Tamir B, Bertranpetit J, Francalacci P, et al (2000) Y chromosome sequence variation and the history of human populations. Nat Genet 26:358–361CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Weale ME, Yepiskoposyan L, Jager RF, Hovhannisyan N, Khudoyan A, Burbage-Hall O, Bradman N, Thomas MG (2001) Armenian Y chromosome haplotypes reveal strong regional structure within a single ethno-national group. Hum Genet 109:659–674PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Wells RS, Yuldasheva N, Ruzibakiev R, Underhill PA, Evseeva I, Blue-Smith J, Jin L, Su B, Pitchappan R, Shanmugalakshimi S, Balakrishnan K, et al (2001) The Eurasian heartland: a continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:10244–10249CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Y Chromosome Consortium (2002) A nomenclature system for the tree of human Y-chromosomal binary haplogroups. Genome Res 2:339–348Google Scholar
  24. Zerjal T, Wells RS, Yuldasheva N, Ruzibakiev R, Tyler-Smith C (2002) A genetic landscape reshaped by recent events: Y-chromosomal insights into Central Asia. Am J Hum Genet 71:466–482CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Nasidze
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tamara Sarkisian
    • 2
  • Azer Kerimov
    • 3
  • Mark Stoneking
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Center of Medical GeneticsNational Academy of Sciences of Republic of ArmeniaYerevanArmenia
  3. 3.Scientific-research Institute of Haematology and TransfusiologyAzerbaijan Republic Ministry of HealthBakuAzerbaijan

Personalised recommendations