Genetic Perspective on Language Replacement in Siberia

  • Lanhai WeiEmail author
  • Hui LiEmail author


Recent instances of language replacement may have left pronounced genetic effects, and therefore warrant molecular anthropological investigations. However, little work has been reported with this purpose. Previous research showed that the diversity of paternal Y-chromosome haplogroups in Siberian populations is relatively small, and populations within a language group tend to share the same predominant paternal lineages. To study the origin and diffusion of language groups and recent language replacement in Siberia, we conducted a comprehensive comparison of Y-chromosome haplogroup frequencies among 131 populations in Siberia and nearby regions. We summarized that N1c-M46 and N2a1-P43 were two founding paternal lineages in Uralic language family populations. For the Ket population, the only surviving Yeniseian-speaking group, the predominant lineage is Q-L330. The founding paternal lineages in Mongolic language group populations were identified as C3*-Star Cluster and C3d-M407, while the only predominant lineage in Tungusic-speaking populations is C3c-M48. For Turkic language group populations, no predominant lineage was observed. We suggest that a language replacement has occurred when the major paternal lineage of a population is not the predominant one within the language group, due to a downstream sub-clade of the lineage having recently expanded from another language group. We propose that after the immigration and admixture of ancient populations, language replacement may have occurred among the Selkups, Tuvan, Kyrgyz, Kazak, Khakassian, Shors, Yakuts, various Mongolic speaking populations, and the Aisin Gioro clan of the Manchu ethnicity. Our research indicates that accurate genetic dating can help us to explore recent differentiations of language groups, as well as to recognize previously unknown demographic admixture and historical language replacement events. This powerful new approach can be applied to other language groups over the world.


Genetics  Y-chromosome Language replacement Siberia 


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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
  2. 2.Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO)ParisFrance

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