You are here: Home Publications Genetics and the Language Sciences

Genetics and the Language Sciences

Fisher, S. E., & Vernes, S. C. (2015). Genetics and the Language Sciences. Annual Review of Linguistics, 1, 289-310. doi:10.1146/annurev-linguist-030514-125024.
Theories addressing the biological basis of language must be built on an appreciation of the ways that molecular and neurobiological substrates can contribute to aspects of human cognition. Here, we lay out the principles by which a genome could potentially encode the necessary information to produce a language-ready brain. We describe what genes are; how they are regulated; and how they affect the formation, function, and plasticity of neuronal circuits. At each step, we give examples of molecules implicated in pathways that are important for speech and language. Finally, we discuss technological advances in genomics that are revealing considerable genotypic variation in the human population, from rare mutations to common polymorphisms, with the potential to relate this variation to natural variability in speech and language skills. Moving forward, an interdisciplinary approach to the language sciences, integrating genetics, neurobiology, psychology, and linguistics, will be essential for a complete understanding of our unique human capacities.
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

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

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn