Let us look at two words: language and ancestry. Throughout the world, there are a plethora of different languages spoken nationally, regionally and so on.
There are a multitude of reasons as to why group A speaks language X, while their neighbours speak a distinct language which could be similar or completely different. Some of these reasons include colonial history, influence from neighbouring populations, geographic surroundings, etc. It is clear that languages in some regions are in a transitional phase, while others are more isolated. In light of this, let us look at a thought provoking question which arises when we analyze language and ancestry under the same lens: does similarity of language amongst groups have correlation with their contemporary genetic relationship? In other words, because country X and country Y speak the same or a very related language, does this mean that they are similar in terms of ethnic DNA? Does the implication of earlier contact between the two groups contribute to this assumption? This is a very loaded question, and it is impossible to give a simple yes or no answer. However, it is possible to look at groups which share cultural similarities including linguistic relations and see if there is any connection between similarity of language and similarity of DNA today. An example of this is Romania. Romanian is a Latin language related to the likes of Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish. However, Romania is surrounded primarily by Slavic speaking countries. Does a Romanian (implied by some to come from Rome) have more similarity to present-day Euro-Latin populations, or their Slavic (and Hungarian) neighbours? Over the next few weeks, we will be examining different groups with similar linguistic properties to see if there is indeed any truth to similarities in languages contributing to similarity ancestrally. While it is possible that linguistically similar groups may share some historical aspects long ago (or even came from a similar root), are they still similar today?
Today, groups to consider are: The Northeastern European Finnish and Estonian peoples with the Central-Eastern European Hungarians. As Finland, Estonia, and Hungary share linguistic properties (Finnish and Estonian to a much higher degree with one another than Hungarian), do they also share a relationship in terms of DNA? When looking at recent research and DNA testing companies, it is clear that “Estonian” and “Finnish” are often grouped together, or slightly apart but still classified as being related to one another. Hungarians on the other hand, are more closely related to neighbouring populations such as Slovaks, Romanians, Austrians, etc. This shows us that while there may have been some original contact or similarity in origin between Finns, Estonians, and Hungarians, the Hungarian population has had more contact with their Slavic and Balkan neighbouring populations, rendering them more related to Central and Eastern Europeans. Therefore, we will say so far, language is not necessarily indicative of similarity in other ways. Next week we will be looking at other groups which share linguistic similarity to elaborate futher.