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Dated phylogeny suggests early Neolithic origin of Sino-Tibetan languages

Zhang, H; Ji, T; Pagel, M; Mace, R; (2020) Dated phylogeny suggests early Neolithic origin of Sino-Tibetan languages. Scientific Reports , 10 , Article 20792. 10.1038/s41598-020-77404-4. Green open access

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Abstract

An accurate reconstruction of Sino-Tibetan language evolution would greatly advance our understanding of East Asian population history. Two recent phylogenetic studies attempted to do so but several of their conclusions are different from each other. Here we reconstruct the phylogeny of the Sino-Tibetan language family, using Bayesian computational methods applied to a larger and linguistically more diverse sample. Our results confirm previous work in finding that the ancestral Sino-Tibetans first split into Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman clades, and support the existence of key internal relationships. But we find that the initial divergence of this group occurred earlier than previously suggested, at approximately 8000 years before the present, coinciding with the onset of millet-based agriculture and significant environmental changes in the Yellow River region. Our findings illustrate that key aspects of phylogenetic history can be replicated in this complex language family, and calls for a more nuanced understanding of the first Sino-Tibetan speakers in relation to the "early farming dispersal" theory of language evolution.

Type: Article
Title: Dated phylogeny suggests early Neolithic origin of Sino-Tibetan languages
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-77404-4
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-77404-4
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Anthropology, Cultural evolution, Phylogenetics
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10116355
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