Quantitative Standards for Absolute Linguistic Universals

Cognitive Science 38 (4):736-756 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Absolute linguistic universals are often justified by cross-linguistic analysis: If all observed languages exhibit a property, the property is taken to be a likely universal, perhaps specified in the cognitive or linguistic systems of language learners and users. In many cases, these patterns are then taken to motivate linguistic theory. Here, we show that cross-linguistic analysis will very rarely be able to statistically justify absolute, inviolable patterns in language. We formalize two statistical methods—frequentist and Bayesian—and show that in both it is possible to find strict linguistic universals, but that the numbers of independent languages necessary to do so is generally unachievable. This suggests that methods other than typological statistics are necessary to establish absolute properties of human language, and thus that many of the purported universals in linguistics have not received sufficient empirical justification

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Collectivism and the Emergence of Linguistic Universals.Georg Theiner - 2006 - In Rocha Luis Mateus, Yaeger Larry S., Bedau Mark A., Floreanu Dario, Goldstone Robert L. & Vespignani Alessandro (eds.), Artificial Life X. Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems. MIT Press.
Semantics: primes and universals.Anna Wierzbicka - 1996 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Querying linguistic trees.Catherine Lai & Steven Bird - 2010 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 19 (1):53-73.
The Internal and the External in Linguistic Explanation.Brian Epstein - 2008 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 8 (22):77-111.
The linguistic territoriality principle — a critique.Helder de Schutter - 2008 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (2):105–120.
Symbol Interdependency in Symbolic and Embodied Cognition.Max M. Louwerse - 2011 - Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (2):273-302.

Analytics

Added to PP
2013-10-04

Downloads
62 (#260,407)

6 months
7 (#432,182)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Natural language and natural selection.Steven Pinker & Paul Bloom - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (4):707-27.
Natural selection and natural language.Steven Pinker & Paul Bloom - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (4):707-784.
Universal moral grammar: Theory, evidence, and the future.John Mikhail - 2007 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):143 –152.

View all 17 references / Add more references