Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa

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Science  15 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6027, pp. 346-349
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199295

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  1. Fig. 1

    Language locations and regional variation in phonemic diversity. (A) Map showing the location of the 504 sampled languages for which phoneme data was compiled from the WALS database. (B) Box plots of overall phonemic diversity by region reveal substantial regional variation (χ2 = 188.7, df = 5, P < 0.001), with the highest diversity in Africa and the lowest diversity in Oceania and South America. The same regional pattern also applies at the language family level (fig. S2).

  2. Fig. 2

    Likely area of language origin. Maps show the likely location of a single language origin under a founder effect model of phonemic diversity (controlling for population size) inferred from (A) individual languages and (B) mean diversity across language families. Lighter shading implies a stronger inverse relationship between phonemic diversity and distance from the origin and better fit of the model, as measured by the BIC. The most likely region of origin, comprising those locations within four BIC units of the best-fit origin location, is the area of lightest shading outlined in bold.

  3. Fig. 3

    Phonemic diversity versus distance from the best-fit origin in Africa. A plot of distance from the best-fit origin location in Africa against overall phoneme inventory size is shown. Distance from the origin alone explains 30% of the variation in phonemic diversity (fitted line; r = –0.545, n = 504 languages, P < 0.001) and 19.2% of the variation after controlling for modern speaker population size (rdistance = –0.438, P < 0.001; rpopulation = 0.146, P < 0.001; R = 0.558, F2,501 = 113.463, P < 0.001).

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