Native Americans and Russians may not only share ancestors they could also have common language elements, a new study suggests.
Evolutionary analysis applied to the relationship between North American and Central Siberian languages indicates that people moved out from the Bering Land Bridge, with some migrating back to central Asia and others into North America.
A proposed language family known as the Dene-Yeniseian suggests that there are common language elements between the North American Na-Dene languages and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia.
Scientists employed a technique originally developed to investigate evolutionary relationships between biological species called phylogenetic analysis, where a tree is constructed to represent relationships of common ancestry based on shared traits.
Scientists used linguistic phylogeny to work out how approximately 40 languages from the area diffused across North America and Asia.
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Researchers first coded a linguistic dataset from the languages, modelled the relationship between the data, and then modelled it against migration patterns from Asia to North America.
Results show an early dispersal of Na-Dene along the North American coast with a Yeniseian back migration through Siberia and a later dispersal of North American interior Na-Dene languages.
“We found substantial support for the out-of-Beringia dispersal adding to a growing body of evidence for an ancestral population in Beringia before the land bridge was inundated by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age,” said Mark Sicoli, from Georgetown University who conducted the study with Gary Holton from University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Although the researchers cannot conclusively determine the migration pattern just from these results, and state that this study does not necessarily contradict the popular tale of hunters entering the New World through Beringia, it at the very least indicates that migration may not have been a one-way trip.The study was published in the journal.