Decoded: Who influences language skills in kids

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New York, Aug 20 (IANS) Ever wondered which language of the two — maternal or paternal — has a stronger influence on your child? According to a study, while vocabulary is influenced by the father, the understanding of sounds is derived from the mother.

Mother tongue hypothesis refers to the language usage that follows matrilineal inheritance.

Father tongue hypothesis, on the other hand, refers to the paternal lines that dominate the local language in an already populated region, which was proposed based on genetic and anthropological researches.

The researchers found that in Indo-European populations, the paternal lineages (Y-chromosome) were correlated to the vocabulary (lexicon) of their languages while the maternal lineages were associated with their pronunciations (phoneme).

The unbalanced correlation between genetics and linguistics can be explained by male-dominant population contact, and the strategy of language learning by local females which is similar to the second language acquisition, said lead author Menghan Zhang from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, US.

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For the study, published in the journal National Science Review, the team explored the genetic-linguistic relationship of 34 populations speaking different Indo-European (IE) languages.

They assembled compositions of the Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups or paragroups from these IE populations, which reflect paternal and maternal lines, respectively.

These haplogroups or paragroups were defined using stable mutations so that they were all already formed in the Paleolithic Age (over 10,000 years ago).

For comparing the languages, the basic word list and phonemic inventory they used reflect the vocabulary system and sound system in a language, respectively.

–IANS

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