Genetics of Language is an international network that facilitates meta-analyses of genetic and genomic data in relation to speech, language, reading, and related skills. GenLang brings together leading scientists from around the world who are interested in the genetic underpinnings of traits related to spoken and written language, not only for disorders but also variation in the normal range. Like most other human phenotypes, the relevant genetic architecture is complex, heterogeneous, and multifactorial. Faced with such complexity, other fields of human genetics have greatly benefited from co-ordinating activities, and creating synergies between like-minded research teams, which has yielded important new advances. The language sciences should also take advantage of this research model.
The core functions of GenLang are (a) to develop a network of actively-engaged researchers who are interested in sharing ideas and expertise in relation to genetics of spoken and written language; (b) to provide a framework for high-powered genome-wide screening of speech, language, reading, and related skills via meta-analyses of existing datasets; and to find ways of harmonising approaches to phenotype definition across different collections. Datasets relevant to GenLang include an array of distinct types, ranging from collections of developmental disorders such as speech apraxia, specific language impairment, and dyslexia, to general population cohorts (cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, including twin registries and birth cohorts), where speech-, language-, and reading-related indicators have been obtained. Of particular interest are datasets where genome-wide and candidate-gene genotype data are already collected from participants, but those with potential for future genotyping (e.g. for replication purposes) are also welcome.
Many research groups have invested considerable time, effort, and expertise (often spanning decades) in collecting, characterizing and analyzing valuable cohorts that can contribute to GenLang. The aim of GenLang is to provide a framework for new opportunities for large-scale language-related meta-analyses which might not otherwise be possible, similarly to that happening for other fields of complex trait genetics. GenLang is not intended to replace or compete with other existing or planned efforts and inter-group collaborations. Many potential GenLang participants are already undertaking collaborative work of different kinds and at different levels with each other. GenLang is intended to complement such existing and planned work and foster new collaborations as a way of enriching our field in an inclusive and transparent way.