Gene: Language

Source: From Squeak to Syntax: Language’s Incremental Evolution, 11-04-2006

Most of the genes involved in language have some sort of close and ancient counterpart in other species. As a case in point, consider the first gene to be unambiguously tied to language, known as FOXP2, discovered by Simon Fisher and Anthony Monaco, Oxford geneticists.

Participation in motor control in turn placed FOXP2 in a prime position for evolving a role in vocal learning, as it did both in songbirds and in humans. FOXP2 is thus not a gene that was invented purely for the purpose of language, but rather, just as Darwin might have anticipated, a gene that has evolved over time — millions of years — adding new functions in successive generations.

Using the tools of molecular biology, a team of German and British scientists led by Svante Paabo probed further, discovering that the variants of FOXP2 found in other animals are remarkably similar to our own: the difference between the human and mouse version is just three amino acids; between human and chimpanzees, it is only two.

More: wikipedia source.

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