A serial founder effect model of phonemic diversity based on phonemic loss in low-density populations [dades de recerca]

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It has been observed that the number of phonemes in languages in use today tends to decrease with increasing distance from Africa. A previous formal model has recently reproduced the observed cline, but under two strong assumptions. Here we tackle the question of whether an alternative explanation for the worldwide phonemic cline is possible, by using alternative assumptions. The answer is affirmative. We show this by formalizing a proposal, following Atkinson, that this pattern may be due to a repeated bottleneck effect and phonemic loss. In our simulations, low-density populations lose phonemes during the Out-of-Africa dispersal of modern humans. Our results reproduce the observed global cline for the number of phonemes. In addition, we also detect a cline of phonemic diversity and reproduce it using our simulation model. We suggest how future work could determine whether the previous model or the new one (or even a combination of them) is valid. Simulations also show that the clines can still be present even 300 kyr after the Out-of-Africa dispersal, which is contrary to some previous claims which were not supported by numerical simulations​ ​
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