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Phylomemetics--evolutionary analysis beyond the gene.

Howe CJ, Windram HF - PLoS Biol. (2011)

Bottom Line: Phylogenetic methods have also been used for some time to analyse the evolution of languages and the development of physical cultural artefacts.These studies can help to answer a range of anthropological questions.We propose the adoption of the term "phylomemetics" for phylogenetic analysis of reproducing non-genetic elements.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom. ch26@mole.bio.cam.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Genes are propagated by error-prone copying, and the resulting variation provides the basis for phylogenetic reconstruction of evolutionary relationships. Horizontal gene transfer may be superimposed on a tree-like evolutionary pattern, with some relationships better depicted as networks. The copying of manuscripts by scribes is very similar to the replication of genes, and phylogenetic inference programs can be used directly for reconstructing the copying history of different versions of a manuscript text. Phylogenetic methods have also been used for some time to analyse the evolution of languages and the development of physical cultural artefacts. These studies can help to answer a range of anthropological questions. We propose the adoption of the term "phylomemetics" for phylogenetic analysis of reproducing non-genetic elements.

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Phylogenetic analysis of texts.
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pbio-1001069-g002: Phylogenetic analysis of texts.

Mentions: The copying of a manuscript by a scribe with the incorporation of changes that were then propagated when that copy was in turn copied shows clear parallels to the error-prone replication of DNA. Inspired by the development of numerical taxonomy, many scholars started to attempt to apply its methods to questions of classification in the humanities [8]. So, for example, Griffith applied the principles to, among others, the works of Juvenal and Gospel manuscripts [9],[10]. Platnick and Cameron [11] discussed the similarities between cladistics (the basis of parsimony analysis), and the evolution of texts and languages. In the 1980s, Lee applied cladistic software (MacClade and PHYLIP) to St Augustine’s Quaestiones in Heptateuchum[12]. Robinson and O'Hara used PAUP in the early 1990s for an analysis of the Old Norse narrative, Svipdagsmal [13]. This demonstrated a very good agreement between a stemma produced by parsimony and one produced by traditional means including, unusually, scribal documentation. The parsimony approach was then applied to parts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales[14] and in 1998, Barbrook et al. used a phylogenetic network method, Split Decomposition, in an analysis of the Prologue to The Wife of Bath's Tale[15]. This also showed good agreement between a stemma produced by phylogenetic analysis and one derived by conventional means. The approach for applying phylogenetic methods to texts is simple in principle (Figures 1 and 2). The texts are aligned and then encoded as a string of characters, usually with each character corresponding to a word. The character strings are then used to build a file in exactly the same format as used by phylogenetic tree-building programs, and the file is submitted to the same programs, unaltered. The method has been used to build stemmata for a large number of sets of manuscripts including, in addition to those already mentioned, the Lanseloet van Denemerken story [16], the medieval German legend Parzival [17], parts of the New Testament [18], treatises on the use of the astrolabe [19], writings of St Gregory of Nazianzus [20], historical poems on the Kings of England [21], Dante's Monarchia[22], the Mahabharata [23], and the Finnish legend of St. Henry [24]. In general, the conclusions drawn using phylogenetic programs are in agreement with those from conventional scholarship. The method has also been tested using “artificial” traditions, in which volunteers copy a section of text in a predetermined copying history that is then analysed “blind.” Again, the results are generally in agreement with the known copying history [24]–[26].


Phylomemetics--evolutionary analysis beyond the gene.

Howe CJ, Windram HF - PLoS Biol. (2011)

Phylogenetic analysis of texts.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3104972&req=5

pbio-1001069-g002: Phylogenetic analysis of texts.
Mentions: The copying of a manuscript by a scribe with the incorporation of changes that were then propagated when that copy was in turn copied shows clear parallels to the error-prone replication of DNA. Inspired by the development of numerical taxonomy, many scholars started to attempt to apply its methods to questions of classification in the humanities [8]. So, for example, Griffith applied the principles to, among others, the works of Juvenal and Gospel manuscripts [9],[10]. Platnick and Cameron [11] discussed the similarities between cladistics (the basis of parsimony analysis), and the evolution of texts and languages. In the 1980s, Lee applied cladistic software (MacClade and PHYLIP) to St Augustine’s Quaestiones in Heptateuchum[12]. Robinson and O'Hara used PAUP in the early 1990s for an analysis of the Old Norse narrative, Svipdagsmal [13]. This demonstrated a very good agreement between a stemma produced by parsimony and one produced by traditional means including, unusually, scribal documentation. The parsimony approach was then applied to parts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales[14] and in 1998, Barbrook et al. used a phylogenetic network method, Split Decomposition, in an analysis of the Prologue to The Wife of Bath's Tale[15]. This also showed good agreement between a stemma produced by phylogenetic analysis and one derived by conventional means. The approach for applying phylogenetic methods to texts is simple in principle (Figures 1 and 2). The texts are aligned and then encoded as a string of characters, usually with each character corresponding to a word. The character strings are then used to build a file in exactly the same format as used by phylogenetic tree-building programs, and the file is submitted to the same programs, unaltered. The method has been used to build stemmata for a large number of sets of manuscripts including, in addition to those already mentioned, the Lanseloet van Denemerken story [16], the medieval German legend Parzival [17], parts of the New Testament [18], treatises on the use of the astrolabe [19], writings of St Gregory of Nazianzus [20], historical poems on the Kings of England [21], Dante's Monarchia[22], the Mahabharata [23], and the Finnish legend of St. Henry [24]. In general, the conclusions drawn using phylogenetic programs are in agreement with those from conventional scholarship. The method has also been tested using “artificial” traditions, in which volunteers copy a section of text in a predetermined copying history that is then analysed “blind.” Again, the results are generally in agreement with the known copying history [24]–[26].

Bottom Line: Phylogenetic methods have also been used for some time to analyse the evolution of languages and the development of physical cultural artefacts.These studies can help to answer a range of anthropological questions.We propose the adoption of the term "phylomemetics" for phylogenetic analysis of reproducing non-genetic elements.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom. ch26@mole.bio.cam.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Genes are propagated by error-prone copying, and the resulting variation provides the basis for phylogenetic reconstruction of evolutionary relationships. Horizontal gene transfer may be superimposed on a tree-like evolutionary pattern, with some relationships better depicted as networks. The copying of manuscripts by scribes is very similar to the replication of genes, and phylogenetic inference programs can be used directly for reconstructing the copying history of different versions of a manuscript text. Phylogenetic methods have also been used for some time to analyse the evolution of languages and the development of physical cultural artefacts. These studies can help to answer a range of anthropological questions. We propose the adoption of the term "phylomemetics" for phylogenetic analysis of reproducing non-genetic elements.

Show MeSH