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Genetic biasing in language and speech -



Research programme leader: Dr Dan Dediu

About this research programme

Some aspects of language and speech might be under the influence of genetic biases. Such biases, while weak at the individual level, are nevertheless able to affect language change through the repeated cultural transmission of language across generations of genetically biased speakers.This process could help explain some patterns of linguistic diversity (when populations differ in their genetic makeup), while also generating universal tendencies (when the biases are shared across the entire species).

This five-years project, funded by a Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) Vidi Grant, focuses on the investigation of such genetic biases in the area of speech production, looking at the effects of variation in the vocal tract on language and speech. The project is highly interdisciplinary with a strong quantitative approach and explores multiple avenues. The project is hosted within the Language and Genetics Department and involves close collaborations with the Language and Cognition Department.


  • Extensive literature reviews encompassing several fields (such as physical anthropology, dentistry, phonetics, speech pathology, medical genetics and forensic science).
  • Collection of much needed primary data on variation in the speech organs using techniques such as MRI and intra-oral optical scans - the ArtiVark project.
  • Computer models of the vocal tract to understand effects of vocal tract variation on speech.


Group members


Last checked 2015-11-10 by Dan Dediu
Language and Genetics


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone: +31-24-3521443
Fax: +31-24-3521213


Simon E. Fisher

Martina Bernhard