Questions tagged [universal-grammar]

a theory usually associated with Noam Chomsky which claims the existence of a human-innate universal grammar consisting of features that all natural human languages share, enabling children to acquire a language without being taught explicitly, but only having to set language-specific parameters during exposure to language input

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Is there a universal (general) definition of gerund, infinitive and participle?

Is there a universal (general) definition of gerund, infinitive and participle applicable to all languages despite the differences between them?
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Principles and Parameters vs. Government and Binding

I'm a little confused about the difference between P&P and GB. This Wikipedia article suggests that they are the same as grammar frameworks, from what I understood: Principles and parameters as a ...
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Is the sequence of time adverbials, place adverbials and manner adverbials appearing in the same sentence universal or typologically determined?

For example, in English there is "I bought a dress with my friend at the mall yesterday" where the sequence is manner-place-time, while in Russian it is time-place-manner, in Mandarin it is ...
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What exactly is Mental Grammar and how is it different from Regular Grammar?

I'd been reading a page on a website which tries to introduce to the reader what mental grammar is. It describes it as "some shared system that allows us to understand each other’s ideas when we ...
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Meaning of "access to Universal Grammar"

I'm reading a paper and the authors that seems to revolve around the concept of L2 learners' "access to Universal Grammar." They argue that the initial state of the learners' L2 grammar is the whole ...
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Interesting, easy-to-replicate linguistic studies [closed]

For a linguistics class of mine, I need to replicate a peer-reviewed linguistics study. I want to find something interesting, though my resources are extremely limited. I have a considerable supply of ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Does Piraha syntax lack any recursion or just embedding?

I think we're all familiar with the background. Piraha is said to contradict the principles of universal grammar because it lacks embedding, but embedding and recursion aren't the same thing. Other ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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Do recursively generated tenses exist?

To clarify, I'm not a linguist, and I only have a cursory grasp on any of this terminology, so sorry in advance for butchering it. I'm wondering if any languages exist where one can recursively ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Is Wikipedia's argument for Universal Grammar completely fallacious?

Wikipedia's article about Chomsky makes the following argument for Universal Grammar: For example, although children are exposed to only a very small and finite subset of the allowable syntactic ...
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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, ...
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Universal Grammar or Other Area of Study

So, what I am wondering about is what I should look up to study the following. From my understanding, there is a limited number of ways languages are implemented. That is, there is a set of abstract ...
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-3 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
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2 answers
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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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2 answers
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What's the deal with universal grammar?

I've heard that Noam Chomsky was a great man because of his work on "universal grammar", but all the resources I've been able to find about it are very general and I can't find out exactly what it is. ...
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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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Induction of semantics for grammars of natural languages (as opposed to syntax)

I am learning about combinatory categorial grammars and the formal semantics of natural language, course by Partee http://people.umass.edu/partee/MGU_2005/MGU05_formal_semantics.htm (especially ...
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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?
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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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2 answers
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Can framing lang acquisition as nature vs nurture be harmful? [closed]

I'm taking a class in language acquisition called "Nature vs Nurture". I'm not particularly fond of that framing, because the divide seems overly dichotomous. In addition, the N-vs-N debate has been ...
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What are the practical implications of Ludwig Wittgenstein's theories in the field of linguistics?

I was wondering how has the field of linguistics was changed (altered? untouched?) by Ludwig Wittgenstein's theories in Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations. All Wittgenstein's work deals ...
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Isn't a language where a rule is applied everywhere always overly redundant?

I recently saw this clip where Karl Pilkington visits a Vanuatu tribe, in which it is said that every word of the Ninde language begins with the letter 'n'. I soon called BS, and as the wiki-page I ...
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1 answer
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Could anyone explain this grammar question for me? [closed]

According to the grammar rule i have learned up to now, in Arabic people use the feminine form of adjective to describe plural noun (more than two).For instance,دفاتر كشيرة(many books),here we use ...
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Sapir-Whorf vs. Chomsky

Can somebody let me know if this is a reasonable explanation for how the two theories are similar and different? This is not for homework, I'm just try to understand the difference, and my textbook ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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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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Does majority of linguists accept universal grammar?

I was trying to educate myself on "big picture" in theoretical linguistics, and started with often mentioned universal grammar, but found online resources very confusing. According to Wikipedia, "...
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What is the difference between AUG and CCG?

What is the difference between Applicative Universal Grammar and Combinatory Categorial Grammar? They both use type inference rules to define their grammars. Is it simply that CCG uses combinatory ...
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3 votes
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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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6 votes
5 answers
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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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4 votes
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Chomsky's Universal grammar and Evolution of human languages

I've recently came across Chomsky's universal grammar, and I'm very much wondering about one specific question. I was trying to find references, however didn't find any explanation in the huge amount ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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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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Resources to Chomsky's Universal Grammar

I need a list of resources to Chomsky's theory of universal grammar and generative grammar that help me from zero to recent-research level [I myself do formal mathematical logic and am not totally ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Is language really too complex for children?

One of the maxims of universal grammar is that children's language acquisition indicates the existence of a genetically preprogrammed language faculty. Because a child cannot master certain complex ...
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“Such” as a pronoun and “Reduction Transformations”

I just ran into this in the novel "Pride and Prejudice" -"Ah! you do not know what I suffer." -"But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into ...
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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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Do languages with high use of grammatical aspect generally lack grammatical tense?

From my understanding of Chinese, the language lacks any sort of grammatical tense but is instead very aspect driven when describing actions. Is this a reoccurring pattern among languages with a high ...
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Are universal grammar and Sapir-Whorf really competing theories?

I consider myself a neo-Whorfian and see major flaws in universal grammar, but it doesn't seem to me like they are truly competing theories. Cutting out all of the parts about how language is acquired ...
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3 votes
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How did Sanskrit embedding evolve?

This question is an extension of this one: How did Chinese recursion evolve? . In the comments, Mark Beadles helpfully pointed out that center-embedding is absent from Sanskrit in the early Vedic ...
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12 votes
1 answer
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How did Chinese recursion evolve?

The modern Chinese linguistic recursion system is essentially the same as English. If you have a highly embedded sentence, you can translate it word for word, the embedding is very much the same. In ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Language phenomena suggestive of Universal Grammar

A recent question on this site led to some discussion which provoked the following comment by one of our community members: UG is "controversial in the latter interpretation" only insofar as ...
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15 votes
6 answers
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Does Pirahã syntax contradict the principles of Universal Grammar?

The Wikipedia article on Universal Grammar cites the research by Everett (2005) about the Pirahã language: Finally, in the domain of field research, the Pirahã language is claimed to be a ...
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15 votes
3 answers
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What are the arguments against Chomsky's Universal Grammar?

What are the most convincing and most popular arguments against the Innateness Hypothesis of Universal Grammar or Universal Grammar as described by Chomsky?
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Is it possible to analyse Māori grammar without contrasting nouns and verbs?

In order to prepare myself for a glorious sports event this weekend, I've bought and read a book about Māori. If my sources are to be believed, Māori is relatively close to other Polynesian languages, ...
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What is the origin of the "hierarchy of projections", the language system or (some) conceptual system?

All languages display some form of the hierarchy of projections, to the extent we understand what this is: in a given clause, roughly, complementizers are higher than inflectional heads are higher ...
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23 votes
8 answers
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What are some alternatives to Chomskian generative grammar?

What are the other common approaches to study syntax? Note: the source is an example question from the on-topic question list in Area51.
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6 answers
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What is a comprehensive recent discussion of the status of Chomsky's universal grammar theory?

In particular, I am interested in the suggested common features of creole languages more or less grammaticalized by children.
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