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Developing new analytic techniques for profiling language phenotypes in genetic research

This project, funded by an AHRC Innovation Award (2007-8) investigates ways of profiling language both quantitatively and qualitatively, for purposes related to genetics research. Essay data has been gathered from a subset of the twins in a major Twin Study at the Queensland Institute for Medical Research http://genepi.qimr.edu.au/ and has been subjected so far to nearly 350 different profiling measures, to identify reliable predictors of relatedness. Since identical twins share more genetic code than non-identical twins it is feasible, with enough data, to measure the relative roles of genetic inheritance and shared environment, including education and family background, in determining linguistic patterns. The current study is exploratory, and aims to isolate a subset of profiling measures appropriate for a study of larger proportions. A major challenge in the project is finding ways to quantify linguistic patterns that are normally regarded as qualitative, including various types of discourse feature and semantic and syntactic complexity. The central project team consists of Alison Wray, Tess Fitzpatrick (Swansea University) and Eugene Mollet, but many other researchers are contributing specific analyses.

For more information about the project, contact Alison Wray.