A fascinating article in Discovery Magazine looks at into the discovery of the FOXP2 gene, which may shed light on the origins of language.

First discovered in a family in London, the gene came to light because some members of the family had an unusual difficulty with words. Some of the children were attending a special speech and language school and had difficulty interpreting the meaning of sentences, as well as with speech. The example given in the article is “The girl is chased by the horse” may be misunderstood by family members as “The girl is chasing the horse.”

The difficulty was not limited to children in the family – some of the parents as well as the children’s cousins had the condition too. Geneticists eventually traced it to the grandmother, and concluded that she had a rare mutation she must have passed along. This came to the attention of researchers in Oxford, who with the help of an unrelated five year old boy, discovered the gene link to language.

So far, so fascinating. Researchers are now looking at the gene’s proteins and links to other species. Take a look at the article and prepare to be amazed!