Correlation Between Genetic Structure and Linguistic Phylogeny in East Asia

  • Yunzhi HuangEmail author
  • Hui LiEmail author


The paper “Correlation between genetic structure and linguistic phylogeny in East Asia” by Yunzhi Huang and Hui Li provides a general landscape of correlation between population and languages in East Asia. Both languages and genes can serve as an important clue to the history of human populations. Most linguists believe that languages within a certain linguistic family have a common origin within the past 10 thousand years, which also fits perfectly with Neolithic archaeological evidence for the advent of agriculture in each region. Thus, Bellwood proposed a farming/language dispersal hypothesis that male farmers replaced the neighboring hunter-gatherers, leading to a male-bias language replacement. This hypothesis has been proven by genetic evidence. Linguistic families show a strong association with Y-chromosomal diversity but not with mtDNA variations. In East Asia, we did find that linguistic families are well associated with Y chromosome diversity. Most families have their dominant Y lineages, for instance the Y chromosome haplogroup O3-M134 in Sino-Tibetan speakers, O2-M95 and O3-M7 in Hmong-Mien and Austro-Asiatic speakers, O1-M119 in Tai-Kadai and Austronesian speakers, N-TAT in Uralic speakers, Q-M242 in Yeniseian speakers, and C3-M217 in Altaic (Tungusic-Mongolian) speakers. Thus, Y-chromosomal lineages of a population can sometimes predict their linguistic affiliation. Furthermore, according to the similarity in the Y chromosome profiles, there are four pairs of congenetic families, that is, Austronesian and Tai-Kadai, Mon-Khmer and Hmong-Mien, Sino-Tibetan and Uralic, Yeniseian and Palaesiberian, demonstrating the substantial early language contact and gene flow between these ancient populations. Notably, between approximately 4,000 and 2,000 kya, Tai-Kadai, Hmong-Mien, Sino-Tibetan, and Yeniseian languages transformed into tonal analytic languages, becoming quite different from the other four. There must be some social or biological factors which induced the transformations at that time, a topic worthy of more linguistic and genetic research.


East Asian Population Paternal Lineage Linguistic Family Southern Route Chromosome Haplogroups 
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.



Non-recombining portion of the Y chromosome


base pairs


mitochondrial DNA


Single nucleotide polymorphism


Short tandem repeat



This work was supported by the National Excellent Youth Science Foundation of China (31222030) and Shanghai Rising-Star Program (12QA1400300).


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MOE Key Laboratory of Contemporary Anthropology, School of Life SciencesFudan UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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