Document Detail

Human language as a culturally transmitted replicator.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  19421237     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Human languages form a distinct and largely independent class of cultural replicators with behaviour and fidelity that can rival that of genes. Parallels between biological and linguistic evolution mean that statistical methods inspired by phylogenetics and comparative biology are being increasingly applied to study language. Phylogenetic trees constructed from linguistic elements chart the history of human cultures, and comparative studies reveal surprising and general features of how languages evolve, including patterns in the rates of evolution of language elements and social factors that influence temporal trends of language evolution. For many comparative questions of anthropology and human behavioural ecology, historical processes estimated from linguistic phylogenies may be more relevant than those estimated from genes.
Mark Pagel
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Review    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Nature reviews. Genetics     Volume:  10     ISSN:  1471-0064     ISO Abbreviation:  Nat. Rev. Genet.     Publication Date:  2009 Jun 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2010-02-11     Completed Date:  2010-03-02     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  100962779     Medline TA:  Nat Rev Genet     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  405-15     Citation Subset:  IM    
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AH, UK.
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MeSH Terms
Cultural Evolution*
Models, Genetic*

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