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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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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'...
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2answers
112 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?
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1answer
148 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 ...
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1answer
144 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 ...
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3answers
141 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/).
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2answers
174 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 --- ...
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1answer
67 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 ...
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1answer
52 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, ...
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32 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,...
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0answers
87 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 ...
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0answers
89 views
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2answers
131 views

Given all languages ever existed, is there a limit for different parts of speeches?

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 ...
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1answer
73 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 ...
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1answer
355 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 ...
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1answer
84 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 ...
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3answers
167 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 ...
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2answers
192 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 ...
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5answers
718 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", ...
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2answers
274 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 ...
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2answers
553 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 ...
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2answers
108 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 ...
6
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1answer
98 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 ...
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4answers
783 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 ...
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5answers
350 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 ...
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5answers
375 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 ...
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5answers
2k 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. ...
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2answers
147 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 ...
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2answers
4k 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 ...
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6answers
1k views

Are there any words understood by speakers of any language in the world?

Are there any words probably understood by “everyone” in the world? I understand that this question needs multiple clarifications, including the following: By a 'word' I mean a word used in the ...
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2answers
497 views

Do all languages share the same set of parts of sentence? [closed]

I know, that there is a relation between part of sentence and part of speech, namely elements from parts of speech can be combined following certain rules in order to be used as a part of sentence ...
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0answers
60 views

What stages of emergence of linguistic features are proposed among the world of scholars?

In biology, there is a simple two stages distinction of the emergence of life: Abiogenesis, the emergence of a (very simple) life form from non-living matter. Evolution, the further emergence of ...
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1answer
889 views

Order of derivational and inflectional affixes

I saw the following formula on Wikipedia: morpheme + derivational morphemes + desinence (inflectional morphemes) followed immediately by the comment not not necessarily in this order. But all the ...
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2answers
13k views

What do all languages have in common? [closed]

What do all languages have in common ? I'm looking for a list of features (such as grammatical, semantic or phonetic elements) that are present in all natural languages.
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3answers
283 views

Across agglutinative languages are there tendencies for morphemes to occur in certain orders?

In agglutinative languages there are normally roots for nouns and/or verbs that can have multiple morphemes attached as affixes, following certain rules, to add information such as tense, aspect, mood,...
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4answers
413 views

Which languages conflate (imperfective) past and irrealis, and why?

In English, the "simple past" form of a verb can sometimes be used to convey irrealis meanings, without any preterite sense: If I was rich, I'd buy a Porsche. If you only knew! I wish I was there ...
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1answer
434 views

Universals and emphatic pronouns

In (spoken) English, the object pronouns "me/you/her/him/us/them" are, in some sense, the "unmarked" pronouns. (I only claim native knowledge of English as it is spoken in parts of the US). By this I ...
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2answers
641 views

Universal “grammar” for mathematics

The Chomsky paradigm states that all languages obey certain laws or conditions which ultimately are a function of the physical properties of the brain. Is there a similar constraint on mathematics? Is ...
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204 views

How to solve 48÷2(9+3) from a linguistics perspective? [closed]

Suppose an alien life comes to Earth, and challenges us to answer a question that will allow them do determine if we can communicate without ambiguities and solve controversies in a rational way. The ...
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0answers
319 views

Is there any evidence pro/contra Du Bois' Preferred Argument Structure (ergative patterning in discourse)?

In The Discourse Basis of Ergativity published in Language in 1987, John W. Du Bois proposed a theory which stated that (p. 850) [universally] the distribution of new information vs. old ...
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0answers
461 views

Do all tonal languages have tone sandhi?

Tone sandhi is the process by which the nominal tones of syllables or words change based on the surrounding context. I know that Mandarin Chinese and Thai have tone sandhi - but is this process ...
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4answers
1k views

Do all languages have sentences?

This is a pretty basic question I guess, but anyway. Do all (human) languages have sentences? Most linguistic articles I read assume so, but can we take this as an assumption?
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2answers
1k views

Why do marked terms exist at all?

According to the definition of markedness, unmarked terms can be consider the "norm". So if there is something more "normal" about using unmarked terms, why would a language have marked terms at all? ...
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2answers
403 views

Are there agglutinative languages without a propensity for long compound nouns?

I've noticed a propensity for agglutinating languages to also permit quite long compound nouns. Finnish, Turkish and Hungarian certainly have them and I've been finding a few now that I'm trying to ...
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2answers
555 views

Are there any “universal” aspects to “adjective sequence”

Whilst it's by no means a "fixed rule", it seems to me the normal sequence for multiple adjectives applied to a single noun/verb in English does indeed tend to correspond to the top answer given in ...
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4answers
895 views

Did case systems dissappear to make embedding easier?

I edited this question in response to Karlsson's paper, "Constraints on Multiple Center-Embedding of Clauses" (Journal of Linguistics 43 (2), 2007, 365-392), linked here: http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~...
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1answer
319 views

Why do onsets not count for syllable weight in phonological processes?

Whether a syllable has a heavy or light rime is often important in whether it will participate in phonological processes, and whether it will receive stress. For example, in Latin, stress is on the ...
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3answers
1k views

Languages with a 12th Basic Color Term

Is the 12th Basic Color Term (BCT) always light blue as in Russian “голубой” (goluboy) and Italian “azzurro” or are there languages in which the 12th BCT is different? Which languages have a 12th BCT?
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1answer
118 views

Recommendations on the current state of parameters as explanation in acquisition?

In the original P&P model, we had a nice story in which there was supposed to be some finite list of principles and some finite list of parameters, the former constraining hypotheses and the ...
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3answers
8k views

Why do most words for “mother”, across languages, start with an [m], and for “father” with [p]/[b], but not vice versa?

It has been observed that in general, a word for "mother" tends to be based on a bilabial nasal [m] or similar consonant, and for father it tends to be [b] or [p]. This is found in many language ...
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1answer
335 views

Are there languages which use the negation of 'odd' to denote 'even'?

This question is influenced by another one I found on the German SE, "Warum nennt man in Deutsch die Zahlen 0, 2, 4 … “gerade” Zahlen?". It asks "Why call Germans the numbers 0, 2, 2 "even". The ...