By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India has long been known as the sojourn of early human migration from Africa and latest research studies by city scientists based on male sex chromosome shows that the country also served as the cradle of languages.
The forefathers of Austro-Asiatic linguistic family originated in India and later dispersed themselves to different places, according to a joint study by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Molecular anthropology group of Biological Anthropology Unit of Indian Statistical Institute and the Shillong-based North Eastern Hill University's Department of Anthropology.
The Austro-Asiatic linguistic family is considered to be the oldest
in the country and people who speak these languages are scattered all over Southeast Asia. The scientists' team analysed the male Y-chromosome
to trace the origin and historic expansion of Austro-Asiatic groups of India.
The report was published online in the latest issue of science journal of international repute BMC Genetics. The city team studied genetic data of 1222 individuals from 25 Indian populations, covering all the three branches of Austro-Asiatic tribes, Mundari, Khasi-Khmuic and Mon-Khmer. The team, comprising among others Dr Lalji Singh, K Thangaraj and BM Reddy, compared the data with the already available scientific information on 214 relevant populations from Asia and Oceania.
The results suggested a strong paternal genetic link, not only among the
subgroups of Indian Austro-Asiatic populations but also with those of
Southeast Asia. However, maternal link based on mitochondrial DNA is not evident.
The haplogroup in the Austro-Asiatic populations had originated around 65,000 years ago and the ancestors of this linguistic family carried it further to Southeast Asia via the Northeast Indian corridor. "Subsequently, in the process of expansion, the Mon-Khmer populations from Southeast Asia seem to have migrated and colonised Andaman and Nicobar Islands at a much later point of time," the study pointed out.
The present findings are consistent with the linguistic evidence, which suggests that the linguistic ancestors of the Austro-Asiatic populations have
originated in India and then migrated to Southeast Asia. Four major linguistic groups, Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Indo-European and Tibeto-Burman, are present in the Indian sub-continent and the ancestors of speakers of these languages might have entered at different points of time.
The Austro-Asiatic languages include Mundari, spoken by a number of tribes living in Chota-Nagpur plateau in Central and Eastern India, Mon-Khmer (Nicobarese and Shompen tribes from Andaman and Nicobar islands) and Khasi-Khmuic (Khasi subtribes from Northeast India).
The team sampled almost all the Austro-Asiatic populations of India covering the entire geographic and micro-linguistic heterogeneity inherent among them, including the molecular genetic data on the Austro-Asiatic Khasi from
Northeast India, considered as an important corridor for human
migrations to Southeast Asia.
"Austro-Asiatic populations of India are not only linguistically linked to
Southeast Asian populations but also genetically associated. It is most likely that these populations have come from Central Asia through the Western Indian corridor and subsequently colonised Southeast Asia, although more data on Y-chromosome and mtDNA are needed from other relevant populations to draw firmer conclusions," the study pointed out.
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