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Fig. 1. | BMC Biology

Fig. 1.

From: Q&A: What is human language, when did it evolve and why should we care?

Fig. 1.

Phylogenetic tree of a small subset of the approximately 400 or so Indo-European languages. Words that the languages use for the meaning ‘hand’ are colour-coded to identify cognate classes. Rectangles along the branches identify regions of the tree where new cognate classes might have arisen. Here the French and Spanish languages share cognate forms for ‘hand’ derived from an earlier Latin form ‘manus’. French and Spanish are part of the familiar grouping of Romance languages. By comparison, the word ‘hand’ is cognate between English and German and this cognate class identifies part of the Germanic grouping of languages. The words for ‘hand’ in Greek and in the extinct Anatolian languages Hittite and Tocharian form two additional cognate sets. Combining many different cognate sets from many different vocabulary items allows investigators to draw detailed phylogenetic trees of entire language families (see text)

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