October 18, 2007

Neanderthals had same version of FOXP2 "language gene" as modern humans

Via National Geographic:
A team of European researchers tested Neandertal bones recovered from a Spanish cave for a certain gene, called FOXP2, that has been dubbed "the speech and language gene."

It's the only gene known so far that plays a key role in language. When mutated, the gene primarily affects language without affecting other abilities.

The new study suggests that Neandertals (often spelled Neanderthals) had the same version of this gene that modern humans share—a different version than is found in chimpanzees and other apes.

"From the point of this gene, there is no reason to think that Neandertals did not have language as we do," said the study's lead author, Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

"Of course many genes are involved in language, so we can't say from this result alone that Neandertals spoke just as modern humans do," Krause added.

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