Father Tongue hypothesis

The Father Tongue hypothesis proposes that humans tend to speak their father's language. It is based on the discovery, in 1997, of a closer correlation between language and Y-chromosomal variation than between language and mitochondrial DNA variation. The initial work was performed on African and European samples by a team of population geneticists led by Laurent Excoffier.[1][2] On the basis of these and similar findings by other geneticists, the hypothesis was elaborated by historical linguist George van Driem in 2010 that the teaching by a mother of her spouse's tongue to her children is a mechanism by which language has preferentially been spread over time.[3]

Language families and Y-DNA distributions in Africa
Distribution of language families
Distribution of Y-DNA:E1b1a(Related to Niger-Congo languages
Distribution of Y-DNA:E1b1b(Related to Afro-Asiatic languages
Distribution of Y-DNA:A(Related to Khoisan languages and part of Nilo-Saharan languages

Focusing on prehistoric language shift in already settled areas, examples worldwide[4] show that as little as 10–20% of prehistoric male immigration can (but need not) cause a language switch, indicating an élite imposition such as may have happened with the appearance of the first farmers or metalworkers in the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages.


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