Edited by Guy Longworth (University of Warwick)
|Summary||If there were any, linguistic universals would be properties that were found in all languages (i.e. universally). One might consider questions about linguistic universals per se, that is, questions as they arise with respect to any possible language. However, it is more common to focus on such questions as they arise with respect to human languages, or human languages that are normally acquired, or acquirable, as first languages. The three main questions here are the following. First, are there any linguistic universals? Second, assuming that there are linguistic universals, what are they? Are there universals relating to grammar or syntax, for example an underlying Universal Grammar? Are their lexical universals, types of expressions, features of expressions, or constraints on expressions, found in all (human) languages? Third, if there are linguistic universals, how is this to be explained? Is it demonstrable a priori that there must be linguistic universals, or some specific range thereof, or are the universals explained e.g. by human biology or the natures of human-inhabited environments, including social environments? As the third question indicates, the issues about linguistic universals are closely connected with questions about innateness.|
|Key works||Montague 1970 Development of an account of absolutely general features of language systems. Lewis 1975 An attempt to connect languages like those Montague attempts to characterise with actual speakers, via appeal to conventions. Chomsky 1995 Useful discussion by Chomsky of his views on language, including the existence of linguistic universals. Crain & Pietroski 2001 Useful overview of the case for innateness of some features of language that connects the issue with questions about linguistic universals. Marc et al 2002 Important recent work by Chomsky and others on the biological bases of language and the explanation for linguistic universals. Wierzbicka 1996 Important work that attempts to uncover a range of linguistic universals. Everett 2005 Argument that recent discoveries in anthropology undermine some claims about linguistic universals.|
|Introductions||Baker, M. C. 2002. The Atoms of Language. Basic Books. Jackendoff 1994 Chomsky 1976 Matthews 2006|
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