12 votes
Accepted

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

No. Plain and simple. But let's break down your question. There are several aspects to the whole idea of 'word in a language' that make the question a lot more difficult to formulate properly. In fact,...
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8 votes
Accepted

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

One has to be careful how the words Noun and Verb are understood, if one wants a good answer. Semanticists talk about Entities and Events, and leave Noun and Verb as formal categories, dependent on ...
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7 votes
Accepted

Do all languages have the same set of grammatical relations?

I assume, based on the your posts elsewhere, that by 'sentence parts', you are referring to grammatical relations (GRs) like subject, object, etc. In the future, it would be clearer for you to call ...
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7 votes
Accepted

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

First of all, part-of-speech is not an observable. It is a latent category inferred from the utterances we can analyse. As a latent category, it is dependent on our analysis. There are lots of ...
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6 votes

How far is Natural semantic metalanguage really natural?

The "Natural" in Natural Semantic Metalanguage is intended to contrast with other semantic metalanguages which use non-linguistic symbols and syntax. Here's an example, which apparently is describing ...
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  • 5,442
5 votes

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

I suspect subjunctive merged with indicative in English simply due to phonetical reasons. Look at Old English: "I ate" (indicative) - Ic æt "I ate" (subjunctive) - Ic æte or "we beat" (...
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5 votes
Accepted

What is the origin of the "hierarchy of projections", the language system or (some) conceptual system?

I have found a paper that addresses this question directly (finally!). Svenonius & Ramchand's 2014 paper (here) offers an explanation for universal "grammatical zones" that appeals both to innate ...
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5 votes

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

In Arabic, تَسْبِيح‎ [tasbi:ħ] is pronounced with s. It may well be common in human languages that sequences of obstruents agree in voicing, and the main tendency is for regressive assimilation, but ...
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  • 69k
4 votes

Is there a theory of universal meaning?

First, you need to understand the position of 'Universal Grammar' in linguistics. It is a particular theory that grew out of very specific concerns - mostly having to do with learnability of syntactic ...
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4 votes

What do all languages have in common?

Well, the basics are the same: all languages have consonants and vowels, and always more consonants than vowel qualities. All of them have verbs and, slightly controversially, all of them have nouns. ...
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  • 1,387
4 votes

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

We imagine the time flowing at us from our front to our back, so the future is in front of us and the past is behind us, for us the time flows from the future into the past. I don't know about all the ...
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  • 16.3k
4 votes
Accepted

Do other languages than English have verbals ,too?

At least, other Indogermanic languages have the ability to derive nouns from verbs, too. In Latin, there is a suffix -tio, -tionis that forms abstract nouns (like derivatio "derivation" from derivare),...
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4 votes

Is gradable vs absolute a universal distinction?

I think there is a distinction here, and it's cross-linguistic—but your example falls on the wrong side. Most English adjectives (that aren't already in comparative/superlative form—"*more best") are ...
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  • 2,585
4 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?

Languages are more than just collections of words, and you're going to run into many problems at many levels. Let's pick one really obvious problem: What counts as a word? The single Yupik word "...
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  • 2,585
4 votes
Accepted

Is there a language without compound nouns?

Compounding is very rare in Semitic, which appears to contradict the claim. The following is from Orin D. Gensler, 'Morphological Typology of Semitic', in Stefan Weninger (ed.), The Semitic Languages:...
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  • 3,085
4 votes

Are markedness and the Sonority Sequencing Principle both language universals?

It has been claimed that markedness and sonority sequencing are universals, but whether or not they are depends very much on what is meant by "universal". The usual understanding of the ...
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  • 69k
3 votes
Accepted

What do all languages have in common?

Any linguistic answer to this question has to be at least partly theory laden. There are many approaches to linguistic universals. The most general points would be: 1. All natural languages can be ...
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3 votes

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

Russian has, probably, the most interesting schema: 0 - Plural 1 - Singular 2,3,4 - Dual 5-20 - Plural 21 - Singular 22-24 - Dual 25-30 - Plural ... The genral rule is to check on ...
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3 votes

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

There has been a general desire to equate unmarkedness with structural simplicity, so that [i], [a] and [u] might have only one feature and [ø] would have more features. If order for this to work out, ...
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  • 69k
3 votes

Does Reduplication oppose any Gricean Maxim?

I don't understand the alternative question. But, Gricean maxims are not absolute rules about human language, they are defeasible assumptions about human social behavior which aid a person in getting ...
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  • 69k
3 votes

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

Greenberg's universal #38 ("Where there is a case system, the only case which ever has only zero allomorphs is the one which includes among its meanings that of the subject of the intransitive verb") ...
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  • 1,387
3 votes

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

It has been claimed by some phonological theories such as Lombardi's (1991) that (de)voicing is regressive in nature, which means that in your question we would expect /s/ to become [z] before /b/. ...
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  • 64
3 votes

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

First, Tarone has two publications from that year, so it would help to specify which one. Second, it will help you to know that she is working in a specific sub-field of second language learning ...
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  • 69k
2 votes

Are there languages with indefinite articles but for which the word for "one" is not related etymologically to any of the indefinite articles?

Czech seems to be developing some sort of definite/indefinite articles with definite ones being evolved from demonstrative pronoun "ten" (this), while indefinite ones from the undetermined pronominal ...
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  • 2,283
2 votes

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

If I could address the Semitic part of your question: the Arabic past tense (al-māḍī; please note that this word actually does mean “past”) is used in principal clauses for actions in the past time, ...
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  • 22.7k
2 votes

Order of derivational and inflectional affixes

The Wikipedia “formula” is indeed highly problematic in so far as it assumes that derivation and inflection are effected solely by suffixation, which is manifestly not true in many languages. For ...
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  • 22.7k
2 votes

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

At least in my dialect of Spanish (Rioplatense) sometimes the imperfect past tense is used instead of both the subjunctive and the potential in conditional sentences (as exemplified below). This is ...
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  • 1,185
2 votes

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

If I am not wrong, in some languages, the word for "mama" is used for other relatives rather than "mother", for example, "mama" means "father" in Georgian, also, "mama" means "grandmother" in ...
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