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Spanish and Portuguese come out as sisters, for example - both are cousins to German, and Hindi is a more distant relation to all three.
All other Indo-European languages split off from Hittite, the oldest recorded member of the group, between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, the pair calculates.
For the microcephalin gene, the variation arose about 37,000 years ago, about the time period when art, music and tool-making were emerging, Lahn said.
The resulting tree matches many existing ideas about language development.The conclusion will be controversial, as there is no consensus on where Indo-European languages came from.Some linguists believe that Kurgan horsemen carried them out of central Asia 6,000 years ago.Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand use the rate at which words change to gauge the age of the tree's roots - just as biologists estimate a species' age from the rate of gene mutations.The differences between words, or DNA sequences, are a measure of how closely languages, or species, are related.
That the genetic changes have anything to do with brain size or intelligence "is totally unproven and potentially dangerous territory to get into with such sketchy data," stressed Dr.