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That does not mean one population is smarter than another, Lahn and other scientists stressed, noting that numerous other genes are key to brain development.
"There's just no correlation," said Duke's Wray, calling education and other environmental factors more important for intelligence than DNA anyway. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
"The genetic evolution of humans in the very recent past might in some ways be linked to the cultural evolution," he said.
The finding hints that farmers in what is now Turkey drove the language boom - and not later Siberian horsemen, as some linguists reckon.
Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand use the rate at which words change to gauge the age of the tree's roots - just as biologists estimate a species' age from the rate of gene mutations.
The differences between words, or DNA sequences, are a measure of how closely languages, or species, are related.
Words are better understood than grammar as a guide to language history; the same sentence structure can arise independently in different tongues.
The resulting tree matches many existing ideas about language development.