Allelic frequencies of 182 tri- and tetra-autosomal microsatellites were used to examine phylogenetic relationships among 19 extant human populations. In particular, because the languages of the Basques and Hunza Burusho have been suggested to have an ancient relationship, this study sought to explore the genetic relationship between these two major language isolate populations and to compare them with other human populations. The work presented here shows that the microsatellite allelic diversity and the number of unique alleles were highest in sub-Saharan Africans. Neighbor-joining trees based on genetic distances and principal component analyses separated populations from different continents, and are consistent with an African origin for modern humans. For the first time, with biparentally transmitted markers, the microsatellite tree also shows that the San are the first branch of the human tree before the branch leading to all other Africans. In contrast to an earlier study, these results provided no evidence of a genetic relationship among the two language isolate groups. Genetic relationships, as ascertained by these microsatellites, are dictated primarily by geographic proximity rather than by remote linguistic origin, Mantel test, R0 = 0.484, g = 3.802 (critical g value = 1.645; P = 0.05). Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.