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Questions tagged [linguistic-universals]

patterns that occur universally across natural languages, such as properties that all human languages share or implications about the relation between the occurrence of one feature and the other

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3 answers
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Do languages have any sort of upper limit for how long it takes to say things?

Conlangs are sorta infamous for taking a lot of phonemes to say things. This is mainly due to so many avoiding inflections and preferring agglutination when they want to tack on a lot of information. ...
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Polynonpersonal agreement: agreement for noun class of multiple arguments

Among languages that inflect their verbs for person, a majority index both the agent and patient arguments in a transitive clause. There are also languages that index one argument for non-person ...
Greg Nisbet's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
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Do Natural Languages have about 50% Information per Syllable as would be Optimal

I found this article summarizing this paper. The article has an interesting observation which the paper did not touch on: They found that Japanese, which has only 643 syllables, had an information ...
E Tam's user avatar
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1 answer
73 views

Implicational Universals in Optimality Theory

I think I am understanding something incorrectly in Optimality Theory but I can't figure out how. So, constraints are universal but rankings are language-specific. So, I read an analysis where they ...
h061's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
627 views

How does Greenberg’s approach to language universals differ from Chomsky’s?

In the Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis, 2015, Chapter 2, “The Adaptive Approach to Grammar”, by T. Givón, the author says that Joseph Greenberg’s attempt to characterize the universal aspect of ...
Julius Hamilton's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
111 views

Are there many "lexical universals" like mama/papa - based on similar re-creation?

Reading the article "Where do mama/papa words come from?" by Larry Trask, linked in this answer (itself based on Roman Jakobson's 1959 article ‘Why “mama” and “papa”?’) we see that a ...
cipricus's user avatar
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4 answers
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Human natural language metalanguage

I was thinking about how a controlled grammar of English can be used as a programming language because it’s fully parsible. The idea of doing this for other languages, such as Sanskrit, brought me to ...
Julius Hamilton's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
223 views

Examples of languages where noun have higher morphological complexity than verbs

Impressionistically, verbs seems to be as complex or more morphologically complex than nouns. What are some good examples of languages, if there are any, where A) there are good diagnostics for ...
Greg Nisbet's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
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If mora are potentially sufficient to describe language, then what do syllables add, in theory?

Following the answer to the recent Question, Why is/was Gokana claimed to lack syllables?, I don't really understand the difference. I have heard of moras in the context of poetry before and didn't ...
vectory's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
181 views

Why is/was Gokana claimed to lack syllables?

Wikipedia says that Gokana has been argued to lack syllables, a radical claim because syllables are traditionally considered to be universal, offers no details, but points out that later the claim has ...
Sodalite's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
114 views

Feature correlates of the length and tenseness contrast in the low vowel /a/

My ultimate goal is to be able to predict from external factors whether and what kind of vowel quality correlates an /a–a:/ contrast might have in a language, and specifically to determine which on is ...
Unbrutal_Russian's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
190 views

Are markedness and the Sonority Sequencing Principle both language universals?

I'm looking into transfer in second language acquisition, specifically on the syllable structure of other L1s transferring onto English. I'm discussing the impact of transfer as well as the impact of ...
Emily Laycock's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
88 views

Are coda obstruents a universal, or is the phenomenon that is caused by coda obstruents (vowel epenthesis) a universal?

Linguistics student confused about universals here. I'm writing a paper on vowel epenthesis, and I'm very lost with the categories of everything. Tarone (1980) claims that vowel epenthesis is actually ...
Emily Laycock's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
409 views

Is there a language without compound nouns?

The Wikipedia article on compounds claims: All natural languages have compound nouns. Is there a specific source to back this up? Or are there in fact languages that don't have compound nouns? If ...
tmh's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
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Is there empirical support for this implicational universal: "if a language has no plural morphology, it has no tense marking"?

The WALS map that crossclassifies number and past tense morphology shows that they tend to covary. I want to know if people with a deeper knowledge of linguistic typology can vouch for this ...
Deep_Television's user avatar
0 votes
4 answers
243 views

Does [s] before [b] always become [z]?

There is a Persian word اسبابكشی asbābkeši and it is quite difficult to stick strictly to the transcription saying there is [s] before [b]. The assimilation of [s] to [z] before a voiced stop is ...
Aer's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
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Languages w/out dependent clauses

Is there a language w/out dependent clauses, i.e. one in which you couldn't say e.g. "I know that x is here" w/ a clause, where the main clause is in italic and dependent in bold (and that overlaps, ...
jaam's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
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Is "small numbers inflect, large numbers don't" a universal?

In many languages, adjectives have some sort of noun-like inflection. In Latin (Indo-European) and Lingála (Bantu), just off the top of my head, adjectives are marked to agree with the nouns they ...
Draconis's user avatar
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-3 votes
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What would be the obstacles to creating a language composed of all the words of all the human languages existing today? [closed]

So this is an question I haven't tried to answer/solve too much before posting, mainly because it's more of a game and exercise in creativity and wanted to have many opinions. So clearly this task of ...
sinekonata's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
202 views

Is gradable vs absolute a universal distinction?

Inspired by multiple questions on ELU and in particular this recent question about 'correct', I wonder whether French has the similar concept of gradable vs absolute adjectives. The idea is that some ...
Mitch's user avatar
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0 answers
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Cross-linguistic study of distribution of number of verbal arguments

I think I remember reading once that cross linguistically, at least in "normal" spoken or written language, verbs almost never take more than ~4-5 obligatory arguments. This seems to be true in my ...
meldefon's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
170 views

No Semantic Prime For Forming A Question?

"Huh", or some variant of it, is universal. http://huh.ideophone.org/ Yet, I see no word for forming a question in the list of semantic primes. There's "when/time", "where/place", but no "huh" or "...
abcjme's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
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References to languages lacking morphology in scientific literature

Are there any references of natural languages lacking morphology in the scientific literature? I suppose there should be, given the topic's importance and the popular opinion on this, but so far all I'...
jaam's user avatar
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4 votes
2 answers
447 views

What are the structural similarities that exist common to all languages?

What (if any) are the structural similarities that all languages share that allows them to be taken in and learned by virtually all humans starting at a very young age?
David Feng's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
391 views

Do different alignments restrict what kind of word order a language can have?

I've read somewhere that all known ergative languages are either verb-initial, or verb-final. I find this surprising, but I don't know of any counter-examples. I've seen plenty of nominative ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
2k views

What grammatical features do SOV languages often share?

I've read that languages with the same word order often have similarities, even if they're not related, purely because some grammatical features will force a language to use others. For instance, if a ...
user avatar
1 vote
3 answers
354 views

sonority hierarchy within vowel backness

Regarding the horizontal axis, and within the same high, I'd like to know whether back vowels (e.g. /ɤ/) are more sonorous than front ones (e.g. /e/).
GJC's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
317 views

About the universality of the notion of subject and the description of ergativity

A very common description of ergativity defines it as a morphosyntactic alignment where the intransitive subject follows a pattern similar to the object and dissimilar from the transitive subject --- ...
Contactomorph's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
120 views

Does Reduplication oppose any Gricean Maxim?

Reduplication (a natural language feature) which changes meaning, pluralize, emphasize etc. is basically doubling of the word, partially doubling it or doubling it with phonetic constraints. Grice's ...
WiccanKarnak's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
116 views

average root length cross-linguistically

A colleague of mine made a claim that the phonemic length of the root morphemes in whatever language does not usually exceed 5, as an average. I have some doubts about this unsubstantiated claim, ...
Artemij Keidan's user avatar
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0 answers
38 views

Minimalist Language: List Of Distinct Universal Properties? [duplicate]

I'm wondering if someone has compiled a list of fundamentally distinct characteristics (verbs, adjectives, nouns)? I'm aware of the Toki Poni language, but that's TOO minimalist, it neglects important,...
jamiestroud69's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
274 views

Is there a purely singulative-collective language?

I wanted to ask "Is there a language that marks singular?" but found this. So instead, I'm asking: Are there any purely singulative-collective languages? The (admittedly abstract) idea behind this is ...
jaam's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
175 views

It's now 12 years since Everett made his startling claims about Pirahã. How have his claims held up? [closed]

How are they viewed by the scholarly community now?
Lipno's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
299 views

Given all the languages that have ever existed, is there a limit for different parts of speech?

I was told here several times, that a part of speech is not universal, but specific for each language as much as the A,T,C and G's are in everyone's genome. Nethertheless, occasionally the same terms ...
Abdul Al Hazred's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
122 views

What parts of linguistics deal with the differences between text types?

There are different types of texts, for I stance: manuals short stories novels recipes love letters testaments contracts fines books for teaching children to read political speeches motivational ...
Abdul Al Hazred's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
1k views

Do all languages have the same set of grammatical relations?

As for parts of speech, I am quite sure it is not the case. For instance, some languages are problematic in separating clearly verbs from adjectives like Japanese and Korean, some native American ...
Abdul Al Hazred's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
182 views

Do other languages than English have verbals ,too?

As I understand it, verbals are nouns,adjectives and adverbs which are derived from verbs. I don't understand if a verbal is indeed one of the three parts of speeches mentioned or a part of speech of ...
Abdul Al Hazred's user avatar
4 votes
3 answers
339 views

Does each word category have a corresponding phrase category?

The word category noun has a corresponding phrase category noun phrase, adverb has adverb phrase, noun has noun phrase Other word categories like, for instance, determiners and quantifiers seem to m ...
Abdul Al Hazred's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
464 views

'Before'/'after' as a spatial metaphor: is the opposite possible?

In English (and, apparently, most Indo-European languages, if not in all), a common trait can be noticed concerning the prepositions/adverbs of temporal reference: 'before' and (to a lesser extent in ...
Alexander Z.'s user avatar
7 votes
5 answers
4k views

Is honorific "uncle" common across the languages of the world?

In Russian and English (and as far as I know Chinese) it's customary for kids to use honorific "uncle" when addressing elders by name (as a kid, you'd rather call an adult "uncle John" than "John", ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
1k views

Given a vowel system, how do I find the tendencies and universals that are manifested with it?

Suppose I am given a vowel system (for example, 'i', 'upside down and then flipped e', 'a' and 'u'). How do I figure out the tendencies and universals manifested in the vowel system? Based on my ...
user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
836 views

How far is Natural semantic metalanguage really natural?

The theory of Natural semantic metalanguage states there are about 70 words we need to describe anything. However, for example DEAD we could express like NOT LIVING and for instance Russian often ...
Probably's user avatar
  • 597
1 vote
2 answers
388 views

Tackling cross-linguistic vowel markedness system[at]ically: features or what?

I have been trying to find alternative ways of representing vowel phonemes for cross-linguistic comparisons in a unified, systematic way that would also reveal their relative (un)markedness. At the ...
Pavel Jetušek's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
228 views

TAM categories: Can they be predicted from their numbers (a language's TAM inventory size)?

To some extent, vowels can be predicted based on the size of the vowel inventory, so, for example, in a 3-vowel system, it will be /a i u/, whereas in a 4-vowel system, we will get /a i u ɛ/ or /a i u ...
Pavel Jetušek's user avatar
12 votes
4 answers
2k views

How common is it for languages to use the plural for zero?

In English, when you use "no" or "zero" to indicate a lack of something, the noun is plural: I have no horses. There are no houses for sale. This costs zero dollars. How common is this across ...
Joe's user avatar
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3 votes
5 answers
572 views

Is the concept of a verb-subject complete sentence a cultural/linguistic invariant?

In english, a 'complete sentence' seems to refer to having at least a single, complete clause — i.e. a subject (noun) and verb — e.g. "I run". This seems to be engrained in the concept of a complete ...
DilithiumMatrix's user avatar
2 votes
5 answers
801 views

Is there a theory of universal meaning?

In linguistics, the term "Universal Grammar" is often heard. In contrast, no one ever tried to propose a theory for universal meaning. Specifically, with no universal meaning, how can we understand ...
Shudong's user avatar
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7 votes
4 answers
5k views

Does any linguist honestly believe that nouns and verbs are not universals?

Does any serious scholar really believe that some languages have no distinction between verbs and nouns? Wikipedia pages suggest this. I studied physics, so linguistics is not my field at all. ...
user8144's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
277 views

Language characteristics only found in one language

I am looking for language characteristics only found in one single language. (Maybe that could shed some lights on language development, since that could be a starting point to investegate why these ...
Flying's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers
6k views

Which sign language should I learn first? [closed]

I want to start learning sign language. The Wikipedia lists several sign languages depending on real spoken languages, and they all have their origins and families and classifications just like spoken ...
Xirux Nefer's user avatar