Out of Babel — Not Africa

Newly published research combining genetic, language, and demographic data challenges the idea of a single lineage of languages and human populations evolving out of Africa.1 Instead, the data supports the idea that multiple people groups have independent origins—a condition one would predict if the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel happened as described in the Bible.

Both language traits and genomic variability in populations change as people migrate to new areas. Some populations split off, and others merge. Thus, while languages and DNA sequences are passed along differently, they are inextricably linked. Because of this fact, combining linguistic and genetic analyses is a logical approach to studying the dispersal of people groups across the earth.

A variety of past studies have analyzed genetic diversity in relation to language for isolated regions of the world such as Europe, India, South and Central America, parts of Africa, etc.,1 but none have done this on a global scale. Furthermore, earlier studies have been asymmetrical in their strategies when comparing DNA with languages. In other words, some researchers focused on genetic analysis and then used linguistics to interpret the results, while others analyzed linguistic data in the context of genetics. As a result, little is known about global human demographics as determined by combining both genetics and language analyses.

In this new study, researchers analyzed the largest available datasets of both phonemes (distinct sound units in a language) from 2,082 worldwide languages and genetic profiles from 246 global people groups. The authors of the study stated, “On a global scale, both genetic distance and phonemic distance between populations are significantly correlated with geographic distance,” and “There is a relationship between human dispersal and linguistic variation.”

By Jeffrey Tomkins – Institute For Creation Research –