Study of Cantonese lexical tone shows language evolution possibly linked to genes
A research group led by Professor Patrick Chun Man Wong, Stanley Ho Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, recruited more than 400 native speakers of Cantonese for a study. The results show that participants with a specific genotype of the ASPM gene are better at perceiving lexical tone in Cantonese, and those without it may improve their abilities through musical training. The research offers clear evidence for the hypothesis that subtle differences in genetic makeup may form the basis of languages people speak in different regions of the world. In this case, because most Chinese people have an ASPM genotype that favors lexical tone processing, they adopted lexical tone in their language. The findings were recently published in the journal Science Advances.