Multiple migrations from East Asia led to linguistic transformation in NorthEast India and mainland Southeast Asia

Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Frontiers in Genetics


NorthEast India, with its unique geographic location in the midst of the Himalayas and Bay of Bengal, has served as a passage for the movement of modern humans across the Indian subcontinent and East/Southeast Asia. In this study we look into the population genetics of a unique population called the Khasi, speaking a language (also known as the Khasi language) belonging to the Austroasiatic language family and residing amidst the Tibeto-Burman speakers as an isolated population. The Khasi language belongs to one of the three major broad classifications or phyla of the Austroasiatic language and the speakers of the three sub-groups are separated from each other by large geographical distances. The Khasi speakers are separated from their nearest Austroasiatic language-speaking sub-groups: the “Mundari” sub-family from East and peninsular India and the “Mon-Khmers” in Mainland Southeast Asia. We found the Khasi population to be genetically distinct from other Austroasiatic speakers, i.e. Mundaris and Mon-Khmers, but relatively similar to the geographically proximal Tibeto Burmans. The possible reasons for this genetic-linguistic discordance lie in the admixture history of different migration events that originated from East Asia and proceeded possibly towards Southeast Asia. We found at least two distinct migration events from East Asia. While the ancestors of today’s Tibeto-Burman speakers were affected by both, the ancestors of Khasis were insulated from the second migration event. Correlating the linguistic similarity of Tibeto-Burman and Sino-Tibetan languages of today’s East Asians, we infer that the second wave of migration resulted in a linguistic transition while the Khasis could preserve their linguistic identity.



Publication Date



Open Access, Gold, Green

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