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paper on language and genes are addressed. Keywords genes-and-languageco-evolution–phylogeny–horizontaltransmission–admixture– linguistic exogamy.

Language Dynamics and Change 5 (2015) 202–226 brill.com/ldc

Do Languages and Genes Correlate? Some Methodological Issues Lyle Campbell* University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa [email protected]

Abstract This paper examines aspects of how linguistics and human genetics can collaborate in the investigation of human prehistory. Matters that need more careful attention for linguistic-genetic correlations to have value are emphasized. Some ways to make collaboration between geneticists and linguists more productive are considered, while some misconceptions frequently encountered in work which correlates languages and genes are clarified. In particular, the questions posed by Comrie (2006) in his position paper on language and genes are addressed.

Keywords genes-and-language co-evolution – phylogeny – horizontal transmission – admixture – linguistic exogamy

1

Introduction

The goal of this paper is to examine attempts to correlate linguistics and human genetics in investigating human prehistory. It is organized as follows. Section 2 addresses the question of whether languages and genes undergo parallel * I would like to thank Victor Golla, Russell Gray, Johanna Nichols, and Dennis O’Rouke for helpful feedback on an earlier version of this paper, and two anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments. This paper is based on a talk presented at the conference “Language and Genes: An interdisciplinary conference” held at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Sept 8–10, 2006, and it reflects issues in work done up to that time, but with further updating to take into account related work since then.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2015 | doi: 10.1163/22105832-00502007

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descent (co-evolution). Section 3 attempts to answer the question, are there particular social conditions that constrain language change and evolution? Are there correlations between type of society and language structure? Section 4 clarifies the role of linguistics in investigating the initial peopling of the Americas. Finally, Section 5 presents the conclusions and directions for future research.

2

Does a Common Linguistic Ancestry Mean a Common Biological Ancestry?

The frequent assumption of a direct parallel descent or co-evolution between language and genes (cf. Cavalli-Sforza et al., 1988, 1992; see Comrie, 2006: 4) weakens work in this area (cf. A. McMahon, 2004; R. McMahon, 2004). The frequent expectation is that if two (or more) languages are phylogenetically related, then the genes of the populations speaking these languages will likely be similar, and that such human genetic-linguistic links will contribute to understanding the prehistory of these populations. Cavalli-Sforza et al.’s (1992: 5620) rationale for expecting co-evolution is: “events responsible for genetic differentiation are very likely to determine linguistic diversification as well.” However, this view is not shared by most historical linguistics (see Campbell and Poser, 2008). Linguistic-human genetic comparisons must take seriously into account that (1) while a person has only one set of genes (for life), a person (or a population) can be multilingual, representing multiple languages; and that (2) individuals (and communities) can abandon one language and adopt another, but people do not abandon their genes nor adopt new ones. Language shift (language replacement) is common—there is no deterministic connection between languages and gene pools. Languages become extinct in populations that survive genetically; language replacement and extinction are frequent. (See R. McMahon, 2004, for discussion of ways in which mismatches between the linguistic and human genetic history come about.) Cavalli-Sforza et al. (1992: 5620) acknowledge the existence of language replacement (and of “gene flow into a population from a neighboring one”) and therefore agree that “imperfect correlation between genetics and language” can be expected, but nevertheless conclude that “even if the observed correlations are imperfect, they are frequently high.” Most linguists do not concur. Rather, linguists concur with Bariani et al.’s (2011: 89) emphasis of “the need for genetic descriptions to consider the widespread phenomenon of language shift.” That language shift (replacement) is common seems self-evident to most linguists, but it may be helpful to cite some evidence of this for geneticists

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and others. Briefly, the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (http://www .endangeredlanguages.com/) provides much information that demonstrates the frequency of language shift (replacement). It lists 639 extinct languages about which we actually know something (not counting the many other extinct languages about which we have no reliable information). For precisely 100 of the approximately 420 known language families of the world (including isolates), all the members of these families are now extinct—in other words, essentially a quarter (24%) of the linguistic diversity of the world, calculated in terms of distinct language families, has been lost. The vast majority of populations that once spoke these languages did not die out, but rather shifted to other languages. Of the 7102 languages spoken in the world today (according to Ethnologue.com [accessed 5-16-2015]), the Catalogue of Endangered Languages lists 3227 as endangered—that is, 45% of living languages are endangered; many of these will unfortunately soon be extinct. Also, individuals and communities frequently shift from one language to another in situations that do not involve languages becoming extinct. Many additional sources could be cited, but that would seem unnecessary, since just on the basis of the evidence cited here, there can be no doubt that language shift (language replacement) is frequent. Accordingly, it cannot be assumed, a priori, that linguistic history and human biological history will correlate (shown, for example, by Blount, 1990: 15; Boas, 1911: 6–10; Moore, 1994; Spuhler, 1979; Barbieri et al., 2011a, and many others). This point is driven home further by the known language families where speakers of the individual languages exhibit relatively little human genetic homogeneity. In Uralic, one of the best-studied language families, there is considerable human genetic difference across populations speaking languages of the family (Nettle and Harriss, 2003: 335–337). For example, the Finnish gene pool is composed of about 75% Western elements and 25 % Eastern, the opposite of their eastern Uralic linguistic relatives (based on both mtDNA and y-chromosome evidence) (Nevanlinna, 1984; Savontaus and Lahermo, 1999; see Zerjal et al., 2001; cf. Bandelt et al., 2002: 100–101). Many similar human geneticlinguistic mismatches can be cited (Babalini et al., 2005; García-Ortiz et al., 2006; Malhi et al., 2002; Malhi et al., 2003; Merriwether et al., 2000; Moore, 1994; Nettle and Harriss, 2003; Nasidze et al., 2003; Pakendorf et al., 2003; Roewer et al., 2013; Rosser et al., 2000; Sims-Williams, 1998; Smith et al., 2000; Szathmary, 1994, etc.),1 and the methodological problems that characterize studies

1 Moreover, sometimes there is a mismatch between MtDNA and y-chromosome patterns, each

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correlating language and genes need to be understood better (see Bateman et al., 1990a, 1990b, 1990c; Bandelt et al., 2002; Hurles, 2002; R. McMahon, 2004; Moore, 1994). As these citations show, the expectation of congruence between languages and genes is not shared by all geneticists; many recognize problems with the assumption, but nevertheless, it is still frequently maintained in publications. As Comas et al. (2008: 5) declare, “the correlation between genes and languages has come to be expected and can be regarded, paraphrasing statistics, as a null hypothesis.” In stark contrast to this null hypothesis of many geneticists, the linguists’ null hypothesis is usually that linguistic and human genetic development need not match and often do not match (a point made by Zegura, 2006, in his unpublished paper at the Language and Genes conference in 2006, mentioned in the Acknowledgment section). All of the following situations are attested in human groups (where ‘no’ means ‘little or no’): 1. 2. 3. 4.

no linguistic admixture – no genetic admixture no linguistic admixture – genetic admixture linguistic admixture – no genetic admixture linguistic admixture – genetic admixture

Where much work in language-gene correlation has privileged (1), linguists expect (1) least often, with (4) occurring most likely. Clearly this is an empirical matter; it will not do to expect a priori parallelism between human genetic and linguistic phylogenetic classifications. (See Chikhi, 2002, on genetic admixture.) While the assumption of parallel development of language and genes is very common in the human genetics literature, findings in genetic research have gradually resulted in the recognition that the relationship between languages and genes is not as straightforward as often assumed. For example, Sokal (1988), employing a method for controlling for geography, shows “significant and possibly higher correlation of genetic distances with geographic distances in Europe,” but nevertheless also argues that “there are genetic differences between populations in Europe when these are grouped by language families” (Sokal, 1988: 1725). Consistent with the co-evolution assumption, Barbujani and Sokal (1990) claim that languages can explain much genetic diver-

suggesting a different linguistic correlation for the population (see, for example, Barbieri et al., 2011b; Berniell-Lee et al., 2009; Nasidze et al., 2004; Nasidze and Stoneking, 2006; Wood et al., 2005).

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sity in Europe; however, Sajantila et al. (1995: 42) find that “linguistic affiliations are not reflected in the patterns of relationships of mitochondrial lineages in European populations.” They do not, however, entirely give up the assumption of parallel development; they argue that “genetic lineages and gene frequencies reflect different time perspectives on population history, the latter being more in concordance with linguistic evolution.” Barbujani’s (1997) overview of findings up to that time also still reflects the expectation of a correlation between genes and languages in most cases, but concedes that it is more complicated than previously thought, and concludes that “the consistency of linguistic and genetic information seems more a hypothesis to test each time than a sensible assumption” (Barbujani, 1997: 1013). Monsalve et al. (1999) report correlations between genetic and geographical distances in Native American and East Asian populations, saying “a less clear-cut relationship seems to exist between genetic distances and linguistic affiliation” (p. 2209) (though their results suffer from the problem of relying on Greenberg’s and Ruhlen’s inadequate linguistic classifications, discussed below). By 2007, Belle and Barbujani come to conclude that “genetic differences appear to more closely reflect geographic than linguistic differentiation. However, our analyses show that language differences also have a detectable effect on dna diversity at the genomic level, above and beyond the effects of geographic distance” (Belle and Barbujani, 2007: 1137). Hunley et al. (2007) set out to test the null hypothesis of co-evolution of languages and genes in 17 native Central and South American populations, finding that this null hypothesis is falsified in each case (p. 628). With echoes of Sajantila et al.’s (1995) view that the correlations may hold at different time perspectives but not at others, they say, “our tests revealed linguistic and genetic correspondence in several shallow branches common to each classification, but no linguistic and genetic correspondence in the deeper branches [in the language classifications]” (Hunley et al., 2007: 622).2 Roewer et al. (2013: 1) note

2 Hunley et al. (2007) tested the human genetic fit with three separate linguistic classifications, Loukotka (1968), Greenberg (1987), and Campbell (1997). Testing against multiple linguistic classifications could be a good methodological procedure to attempt to avoid flaws in linguistic classifications. However, in this case, comparison with Loukotka (1968) and Greenberg (1987) serves no purpose, since both are based on methods that linguists have rejected, meaning classifications based on these methods are also rejected. Moreover, the data upon which these classifications were based are generally considered highly flawed (for discussion and references, see Campbell, 1997, Campbell and Poser, 2008). A lack of genetic-linguistic correspondence can hardly be surprising when these two unreliable linguistic classifications are involved. The classification in Campbell (1997) comes closer to representing a consensus view. Even here, however, lack of correspondence between human genetic and linguistic phyloge-

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studies of human populations in Europe and Asia that argue for a concordance between genetic structure and the regional pattern of geography and language, but report that for South America “such evidence has been lacking so far.” In their study, they found that “virtually no structure became apparent for the extant y-chromosomal genetic variation of South American males that could sensibly be related to their inter-tribal geographic and linguistic relationships.” Nevertheless, they continue to accept that “a pronounced correlation between genetic and geographic/cultural structure” can be expected under very specific conditions (ibid.). As a helpful reviewer of this paper pointed out, today most scholars accept that the original hopes of large-scale fit between linguistic and genetic trees (as in Cavalli-Sforza et al., 1988) were in vain, but a number of more localized studies have attempted to show that genetic and linguistic data can inform each other, provided that the temporal and geographical scales are limited (see, for example, Lancaster, 2009; Krithika et al., 2009; Gayà-Vidal et al., 2010; Lin et al., 2010; and Poloni et al., 1997). At the same time, however, others find no meaningful correlation at all between language and genes in specific cases (for example, Cox and Mirazón Lahr, 2006; Gayà-Vidal et al., 2010; Sandoval et al., 2009, etc.) or simultaneously find some matching and some mismatching (e.g. Barbieri et al., 2011a, among others). Despite the accumulation of cases where no robust direct correlation between languages and genes is found, the tendency to expect co-evolution of language and genes persists (see Pakendorf, 2014). Recognizing that language shifts happen frequently (as seen above), and that genes flow into populations speaking different languages, we must ask: where does that leave those interested in correlating human genetics and linguistics? Russell Gray (personal communication) asks whether linguists can tell how common language shift is, under what conditions it occurs, and where we should expect congruence or incongruence between genes and language. The answer is that language shift is very common (cf. Thomason and Kaufman, 1988), witness the hundreds of extinct languages cited above. Language replacement happens for a variety of social, political, and economic reasons (Campbell, 2003; Moore, 1994; www.endangeredlanguages.com). Extremely few languages undergo no influence from other languages, typically accompanied by gene flow across language boundaries. Instances such as Trejaut et al.’s (2005),

netic classifications might surprise scholars with an expectation of correspondence between the two, but hold no surprise for most linguists with their expectation that there will often not be a good match between genes and languages.

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where the linguistic and human genetic history (in this case, for the Formosan origin of Austronesian) appear to match closely, are uncommon. However, lack of significant correlation does not defeat the enterprise. We should not dismiss cases of mismatches in the linguistic and human genetic history, for these may be the most revealing for a fuller picture of the past and for comprehending fully the processes affecting human populations. Here is where collaboration between linguists and human genetics can pay off, since both have sophisticated methods for dealing with both vertical relationships (inheritance) and horizontal ones (borrowing, gene flow). From the linguistic side, many sources of information provide valuable historical insights regardless of whether there is congruence with the human genetic cladistic picture. Knowing that speakers of Proto-Indo-European had horses, cows, wagons, tribal kings, and so on (cf. Mallory and Adams, 1997), from the vocabulary reconstructed by the comparative method, is invaluable historical information, regardless of whether we know their precise human genetic history or who their present-day lineal descendants are. We cannot ignore such information when trying to come to grips with a fuller picture of prehistory. Research in prehistory needs to take into account as much evidence from as many lines as possible to understand the past. More important than expecting congruences is collaboration in order to understand the processes that bring about the frequent mismatches, as well as matches (as called for also by Pakendorf, 2014). How successful can we be when we look at the cultures, languages, and human populations that we know about today and attempt to project back in time to the human groups that each line of evidence (material culture, language, genes) may have been associated with in the past? It is important that these lines of evidence be investigated independently and then collaborations be undertaken to understand how the mismatches came about. Instances of congruence are much rarer than many have thought. 2.1 What of Linguistic Areas, Language Contact, and Language Shift? These commonplace linguistic phenomena involve situations where a direct correlation between linguistic and human genetic history is not to be expected—where there are “horizontal” relationships (involving diffusion) rather than “vertical” (phylogenetic) ones among languages, i.e., traits from different languages spread over human populations speaking different languages originally. Linguistic areas, where structural traits of languages diffuse across language boundaries, are not unusual. Better-known linguistic areas include: Balkans, Baltic, the Ethiopian highlands, Mesoamerica, the Northwest Coast (of North America), and South Asia (Indian subcontinent). They exhibit horizontal developments in languages, accompanied also by horizontal gene flow.

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To mention just one example, the Northwest Coast Linguistic Area (Campbell, 1997: 332–334) is notorious for intermarriage, slaving, linguistic and cultural diffusion, and multilingualism. Figures from 1845 show 6 % of the population of the Northwest Coast region, and 10 % of the lower Fraser subregion, to be slaves (Amoss, 1993: 10–11). With numerous refugees from other villages and frequent intermarriage (polygyny was common) in addition to the slaves, there was considerable gene flow across linguistic boundaries. In such situations, we would not expect developments in human genetics and languages to correlate directly. These are by no means unusual situations. These examples drive home the point that parallelism between linguistic and human genetic transmission should not be expected a priori. They also bring up a frequent problem: misunderstanding of the nature of language change and the role of inheritance vs. borrowing. Linguists accept that languages can be classified phylogenetically, represented cladistically in genealogical trees. Unfortunately, some have misunderstood this to mean that historical linguists see homology as the only possible historical relationship among languages. However, not all historical associations among languages are due to inheritance from a common ancestor—phylogenetic relationships are not the only thing linguists look for in order to understand the prehistory of languages. The investigation of both inheritance and diffusion plays a large role, and historical linguistics has well-known methods for addressing both. The research on correlations of language and genes should not lose sight of this. 2.2

What of Multilingual Societies Practicing Linguistic Exogamy, as in Parts of Amazonia? The linguistic exogamy of the Vaupés linguistic area (Colombia-Brazil) is wellknown (Aikhenvald, 2002; Bowern et al., 2011; Chernela, 2004; Jackson, 1983; Sorensen, 1967), involving some twenty languages, where most people are highly multilingual. Here, clearly, the human genetic history of individuals and communities does not match closely their linguistic phylogenetic history (recognized also by some geneticists, e.g., Hunley et al., 2007: 628). It is obviously not the case here, as often assumed, that “humans do not tend to easily cross language boundaries when choosing a partner” (Barbujani, 1997: 1011). The Vaupés is not an isolated situation; the Chorote, Nivaclé, and Wichí in the Misión La Paz region of Salta Province, Argentina, also practice linguistic exogamy.3 Each spouse speaks his/her own language and is addressed in

3 Nivaclé (Chulupí), Chorote, and Wichí are Matacoan languages whose difference from one another is like that of English from German.

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(and understands) the other spouse’s language in return—a spouse does not accommodate by speaking the other spouse’s language. Speakers and hearers in conversations typically are not speaking the same language. People communicate regularly with speakers of different languages, but rarely in the same language, unlike in the Vaupés case (see Campbell and Grondona, 2010). In such situations there is no direct correlation between human genetics and language. The existence of situations of linguistic exogamy certainly confounds the assumption of parallel transmission of languages and genes. There are methods in both population genetics and linguistics for dealing with horizontal relationships (diffusion/admixture/gene flow). The two fields may be able to collaborate both in improved methodology and models, as well as in the interpretation of the circumstances in given areas.

3

Are There Particular Social Conditions That Constrain Language Change and Evolution?

It is frequently hypothesized that there is a causal connection between type of society and aspects of linguistic structure, that language becomes more complex in isolated communities or in small-scale societies where most interaction is face to face and thus likely to tolerate eccentricity (Andersen, 1988; Hymes, 1974; Nettle, 1999; Nettle and Romaine, 2000; Ross, 1996, 1997; Trudgill, 1989, 2002, 2004a, 2004b, etc.). Assumed correlations between society type and language structure have mostly proven baseless and misleading (see Campbell and Poser, 2008, for details). There are many exceptions of simple, but relatively isolated small languages and large, non-isolated but complex languages. Arguments most often involve phonological complexity, but there are numerous exceptions: relatively small and isolated languages, such as Rotokas, Pirahã, Hawai’ian, Māori, etc., which have extremely small phoneme inventories; and numerous large non-isolated languages which have complex phoneme inventories with unusual phonological traits. The latter include varieties of Quechua, spoken by millions; Zulu (6,000,000 speakers) with numerous clicks, due to contact with so-called ‘Khoisan’ languages, not to isolation; Georgian (4,000,000 speakers); Arabic, with many millions of speakers, a language of civilization and empire for centuries; etc. Some favor an opposite view that isolated or small-scale languages tend towards more simplified structures. Trudgill’s (2002, 2004a) more elaborate view attempts to include both perspectives. He believes that long-term contact involving child bilingualism may produce large phonological inventories, but that adult language contact may produce smaller inventories through imperfect learning, which results in simplification (Trudgill,

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2004a: 314, 318).4 Commentators found no clear correlation between amount of language contact, isolation, or community size and structural complexity of the languages involved; that is, they found no support for this claim, but did find much evidence against it (see Rice, 2004; Hajek, 2004; Bakker, 2004; Pericliev, 2004; Campbell and Poser, 2008: 457–462). Hay and Bauer (2007) argue for a positive correlation between a language’s number of speakers and its number of phonemes, that smaller populations favor smaller phoneme inventories. Their tables show an overall statistical tendency but with large amounts of ‘scatter,’ exceptions that do not conform to the trend. Their results are unlikely to convince historical linguists that population size is a significant factor in how languages change. There are so many exceptions, and the proportion of languages that do conform is so small, that the observed tendency does not permit predictions about change in language. They also find that language family membership has a significant influence on the size of the phoneme inventory, regardless of the number of speakers of the various languages in the family, and this suggests that the population size is not a compelling factor in how or why languages will change. More to the point, Donohue and Nichols’ (2011) results, based on a large sample of languages, confirm that a positive correlation between population size and size of phoneme inventory cannot be demonstrated cross-linguistically. They argue that Hay and Bauer’s (2007) results do not represent an intrinsic fact about language, but reflect the different political and economic histories of different continents over the last two millennia. In short, there is no reliable correlation between community size or isolation and linguistic complexity. No convincing case has been presented to demonstrate any causal relationship between language structure and type of society. For attempts to correlate human genetics and linguistics, any presumed social conditions constraining language change and evolution can safely be set aside.

4

What of the Initial Peopling of the Americas?

The classification of American Indian languages has played a significant role in human genetic research involving populations of the Americas. The linguistic picture is compatible with a wide range of possible scenarios for the earliest peopling of the Americas (see Campbell, 1997: 90–106). There is great linguistic

4 Left unmentioned is the difficulty for this view that many language-contact situations simultaneously involve both adults with imperfect learning of the non-native language and children who acquire both languages natively.

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diversity in the Americas; most scholars of American Indian languages accept the existence of about 180 different phylogenetic units (i.e., language families and isolates: 58 in North America, 15 in Mexico and Central America, and 107 in South America), which cannot at present be shown to be related to one another. Many scholars are sympathetic to the possibility that many of these families and isolates may ultimately be phylogenetically related, but believe that so much linguistic change has taken place since they began to diversify that not enough evidence is left to demonstrate such connections. This linguistic diversity (with possible genealogical connections that cannot now be demonstrated) means that we are unable to eliminate any of the various proposals concerning the arrival of the first Americans on the basis of linguistic evidence. This evidence is consistent with many scenarios for the earliest humans in the Americas—one migration into the New World of speakers of a single language with subsequent language diversification, a few movements represented by a few languages with subsequent diversification, numerous entries involving numerous languages, etc. The question of the initial peopling of the Americas is often associated with Greenberg’s (1987) Amerind hypothesis. Claims of non-linguistic evidence supporting Greenberg’s linguistic classification of the Americas (Greenberg, 1987; Greenberg et al., 1986) proved to be without foundation (Bolnick et al., 2004; Campbell, 1997: 100–104; Hunley and Long, 2005; Salzano et al., 2005).5 This brings up another problem: the predilection for problematic linguistic phylogenetic classifications. Papers involving human genetics and language classifications often rely on disputed or erroneous linguistic phylogenetic classifications, e.g. “Nostratic,” “Altaic,” “Amerind,” “Dene-Yeniseian,” etc. As Bolnick et al. (2004) show in a survey of 100 genetics papers in recent years, attempts to test possible correlations between linguistic phylogenetic classifications and human genetics in the Americas have nearly all taken Greenberg’s (1987) discredited classification of American Indian languages as their point of departure, which undermines their enterprise. Fortunately, by now, many recognize

5 Torres et al. (2006) would appear to confirm that the genetic marker of their study (haplogroup c) does not fall squarely into any single one of Greenberg’s large South American linguistic groupings, but nevertheless seem critical because “there is no apparent correlation between Campbell’s [1997] linguistic classification and the population distribution of the revertant c lineages” (p. 64). That is, they seem to expect a priori a direct human geneticlinguistic association. However, their three languages (Guahibo [Guajiboan], Sáliva [Sálivan], and Piacopo [Arawakan]), though members of different language families, are spoken in adjacent regions, and it should be no surprise that genes could flow across adjacent populations of speakers of languages which are not demonstrably related to one another phylogenetically.

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the unreliability of Greenberg’s (1987) classification and find that it does not match the human genetic picture (Bolnick et al., 2004; Hunley and Long, 2005; Salzano et al., 2005); nevertheless, Greenberg’s view is still influential in some recent genetic works. Greenberg (1987) proposes that all Native American languages, except the “Na-Dene”6 and Eskimo-Aleut groupings, belong to a single macro-family, “Amerind.” Amerind is rejected by virtually all specialists in Native American languages and historical linguistics because the evidence has been weighed carefully and found to lack scientific merit. Specialists agree, as mentioned, that valid methods do not permit reduction of Native American languages to fewer than about 180 independent phylogenetic units (language families and isolates). “Amerind” has been criticized on various grounds: (1) There are exceedingly many errors in Greenberg’s data—“the number of erroneous forms probably exceeds that of the correct forms” (Adelaar, 1989: 253). (2) Where Greenberg stops—after assembling superficial similarities and declaring them due to common ancestry—is where other linguists begin. Since similarities can be due to chance, borrowing, onomatopoeia, sound symbolism, nursery words (the mama, papa, nana, dada, caca sort), misanalysis, and other things, a plausible proposal of remote linguistic relationship requires the attempt to eliminate all other possible explanations, leaving a shared common ancestry as the most likely. Greenberg made no attempt to eliminate these other explanations, and the similarities he amassed appear to be due mostly to accident and a combination of these other factors (Ringe, 1996: 152). (3) In various instances, Greenberg compared arbitrary segments of words, equated words with very different meanings (e.g., ‘excrement’/‘night’/‘grass’), misidentified languages, failed to analyze the morphology of some words and falsely analyzed that of others, neglected regular sound correspondences, failed to eliminate loanwords, and misinterpreted well-established findings. (4) The Amerind “etymologies” proposed are often limited to a few languages of the many involved in his comparisons. (See Adelaar, 1989; Berman, 1992; Campbell, 1988, 1997; Kimball, 1992; McMahon and McMahon, 1995; Poser, 1992; Rankin, 1992; Ringe, 1992, 1996, etc.) (5) Finnish, Japanese, and other randomly chosen languages fit Greenberg’s Amerind data as well as or better than any of the American Indian languages do; Greenberg’s method has proven incapable of generally distinguishing implausible relationships from plausible ones (Campbell, 1988, 1997).

6 Greenberg’s “Na-Dene” grouping includes Eyak-Athabaskan and Tlingit, which are considered by most scholars to definitely be related, but also Haida, and most specialists reject the claimed phylogenetic relationship of Haida with these other languages.

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In short, it is with good reason that Amerind has been rejected: it does not meet its burden of proof. Attempts to test for a human genetic fit with this abandoned classification are a waste of effort, and can provide no useful results. And Amerind is not the only unsubstantiated linguistic phylogenetic hypothesis that occupies journal space: “Altaic,” “Nostratic,” “Dene-Caucasian,” and others have also often been assumed in human genetic-linguistic correlations (cf. Eshleman et al., 2004, etc.). Of course, not all human genetic-linguistic correlations rely on linguistic classifications that are not well founded, but the quantities of the ones that do are remarkable. A related problem is the predilection to rely on questionable sources. For example, Ruhlen’s (1987, 1994a, 1994b) classification of the world’s languages and his claims about language relationships have been the basis for numerous publications involving attempts at correlating linguistic matters with other sources of information on prehistory (e.g. Belle and Barbujani, 2007; Chen et al., 1995; Comas et al., 2008; Monsalve et al., 1999; Poloni et al., 1997; Rubicz et al., 2002; Manning, 2006, etc.). However, Ruhlen’s classification does not represent the consensus regarding language classification and is not supported empirically (R. McMahon, 2004). Thus, where Ruhlen (1987) assumes only 35 genetic units (17 “phyla” and 18 language isolates) in the world,7 historical linguists generally count approximately 420 independent linguistic lineages (language families and isolates) as mentioned above. The very large phylogenetic groupings listed by Ruhlen are rejected by most linguists on sound methodological principles (see Campbell and Poser, 2008). Moreover, even in human genetic research, Chen et al. (1995) find no correlation between genes and the higherorder macro-families proposed by Ruhlen, but still argue for small correlations at lower taxonomic levels.8 Linguists would advise geneticists to be cautious about proposed but rejected or highly disputed remote linguistic affiliations, such as those in Greenberg (1971, 1987, 2000) and Ruhlen (1987, 1994a, 1994b).

7 In later work Ruhlen (1994a, 1994b) reduces the number to only 12 phyla, and in fact, in his Proto-World hypothesis, he believes ultimately there was only one. 8 It should be pointed out also that the classifications of languages in earlier editions of Ethnologue, on which some papers attempting to correlate genes and languages have relied, were sorely inadequate to represent the known phylogenetic relationships among the world’s languages, and even the much improved current edition of Ethnologue (18th edition, at www .ethnologue.com) has only 234 units (151 families, 83 language isolates) to represent the approx. 320 surviving language families (including isolates) that still have speakers (of the approx. 420 total known linguistic lineages, i.e. families and isolates). In short, Ethnologue should not be a go-to source for information on the phylogenetic classification of languages.

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Some papers correctly conclude that there are no meaningful linguistichuman genetic correlations for some of these proposed but disputed linguistic macro-families—but for the wrong reasons (for example, Hunley and Long, 2005; Rubicz et al., 2002). That is, they start out by assuming such hypotheses of remote linguistic affiliation as Amerind, Dene-Caucasian, Eurasiatic, IndoPacific, Nostratic, etc., which are rejected by most historical linguists, and find that these rejected classifications fail to match the human genetic picture. For linguists, it is no surprise that something linguistic that cannot be substantiated by the evidence should provide no meaningful correlations with human genetic material. The tendency to rely on unsupported claims of linguistic kinship in work on human genetic-linguistic correlations has done human genetics a disservice.9

9 This paper does not attempt to discuss the recent studies involving the application of quantitative phylogenetic approaches to various historical linguistic questions, for lack of space but also because, for the most part, they do not address directly the question of how correlation of language and genes can contribute to greater understanding of prehistory. Rather, they mostly apply methods adopted from evolutionary biology to historical linguistic questions, especially questions of phylogeny. For an overview and discussion, see Campbell (2013: 459–492). Several papers dealing with possible correlation between languages and genes mention the work of Michael Dunn and colleagues, with the hope that using structural traits rather than exclusively lexical data might result in better linguistic-genetic correlations (see Dunn et al., 2005; Dunn et al., 2007; Dunn et al., 2008). However, this work is not relevant here; rather, the approach applies biological cladistic methods to shared structural traits among languages to address issues of language phylogeny (and contact), not correlations between language and human genetics. There is, in any case, not sufficient space here for a full critique of this approach, but one broad consideration can be mentioned. Dunn and colleagues only look at shared structural traits across compared languages. This violates the sound-meaning isomorphism principle, which states that comparisons to establish phylogenetic relationships among languages must involve both sound and meaning together (see Meillet, 1958: 90, cf. Campbell, 2013: 205). This is because similarities in sound alone (e.g., presence of a tonal system in compared languages) or in meaning alone (e.g., presence of grammatical gender in compared languages) are not reliable, since they are often independent of phylogenetic relationship and arise due to diffusion, accident, or typological tendencies (Campbell and Poser, 2008: 132, 192, 197, 205). Also, there are problems with the issue of stability among structural traits of language. Dunn et al. (2008: 716) believe that “abstract grammatical patterns can remain stable for millennia,” and that investigating structural traits can give insights into deep linguistic history. However, the issue of the structural stability of particular grammatical features is still being debated (see Campbell and Poser, 2008: 298–299, 309–316; Wichmann, 2015).

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How might the unsuspecting geneticist proceed? The answer is by testing all the better-known competing linguistic classifications, not just a disputed linguistic classification that might appeal for some non-linguistic reason, or by collaborating with linguists known to represent mainstream views, knowledgeable about sound methodology in historical linguistics.

5

Conclusions and Directions for the Future

While significant contributions from linguistic-genetic collaboration are possible, it is important to call for caution concerning several issues frequently encountered in work that aims to correlate languages and genes. Some of the problems pointed out in this paper are: 1. Reliance on problematic linguistic phylogenetic classifications, on unfounded proposals of remote linguistic kinship, and on questionable sources about language classifications. 2. Misunderstanding with respect to language inheritance (phylogeny) and borrowing (language contact) and how they interact. 3. Assumptions that kinds of societies can influence kinds of language change. 4. The tendency to expect parallelism between linguistic and human genetic transmission through time. Progress in linguistic and human genetic correlations will require avoiding these problems. As argued here, human genetic-linguistic parallelism should not be expected, but, rather, we should emphasize realistic approaches that deal seriously with horizontal relationships (diffusion/admixture/gene flow) in addition to cladistic ones. Work in this area should avoid proposed but unsubstantiated linguistic phylogenetic hypotheses. Attempts to find human genetic correlations with linguistic entities that are known (at least known by most linguists) not to be well-founded will produce no useful results. If the genes do not match languages in these cases, one reason may well be that the linguistic classification being relied on involves an unsupported hypothesis of remote linguistic kinship. Even when valid linguistic phylogenetic groupings are involved but do not match the human genetic picture, the reason may be that the languages and the genes did not have parallel (vertical) histories, but rather involve “horizontal” differences (diffusion/gene flow, language shift). It is also unproductive to challenge linguistic classifications based on human genetic evidence. A finding of non-congruence between genes and language

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is irrelevant for language classification. One of the soundest principles of language phylogeny is that only linguistic evidence counts (supported even by Greenberg, 1957, 1963), since, as Boas demonstrated in the beginning of American anthropology, shared cultural traits, mythology, folklore, technologies, and human biological traits can be—and often are—independent of one another and of language, or are diffused and must be eliminated from arguments for linguistic kinship (Campbell and Poser, 2008). The way forward involves accepting that lack of significant correlation is not a problem, but an opportunity for geneticists and linguists to collaborate both in benefiting from each other’s methods and in coming to a fuller understanding of the dynamics of human populations and the transmission of language. In particular, jointly addressing non-cladistic processes (diffusion, admixture, gene flow), we stand to make progress in grasping the prehistory of various human groups more fully.

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