Tone

Small Genetic Differences, Big Language Effects

Two variants of the genes ASPM and Microcephalin may make it easier to learn tone languages. If you have the tone-versions, as do most speakers of Chinese (and other languages such as those found in South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa), you may be more adept at learning languages that distinguish words with pitch as opposed to those that don't. This is the first time it's been shown that possessing a particular form of gene, let alone two, may impact the way we learn language.  The dogma has always been that we are all born with precisely the same genetic program which builds exactly the same neural equipment for language. The Times, Scientific American, PNAS.