Genes and linguistic tone
Ladd, D. R., & Dediu, D.
Genes and linguistic tone. In H. Pashler (Ed.
), Encyclopedia of the mind
(pp. 372-373). London: Sage Publications.
It is usually assumed that the language spoken by a human community is independent of the community's genetic makeup, an assumption supported by an overwhelming amount of evidence. However, the possibility that language is influenced by its speakers' genes cannot be ruled out a priori, and a recently discovered correlation between the geographic distribution of tone languages and two human genes seems to point to a genetically influenced bias affecting language. This entry describes this specific correlation and highlights its major implications. Voice pitch has a variety of communicative functions. Some of these are probably universal, such as conveying information about the speaker's sex, age, and emotional state. In many languages, including the European languages, voice pitch also conveys certain sentence-level meanings such as signaling that an utterance is a question or an exclamation; these uses of pitch are known as intonation. Some languages, however, known as tone languages, nian ...