Universal grammar

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(Redirected from Universal Grammar)

Universal grammar is a theory of linguistics postulating principles of grammar shared by all languages, thought to be innate to humans. It attempts to explain language acquisition in general, not describe specific languages.

This theory does not claim that all human languages have the same grammar, or that all humans are "programmed" with a structure that underlies all surface expressions of human language. Rather, universal grammar proposes a set of rules that would explain how children acquire their language(s), or how they construct valid sentences of their language.

Students of universal grammar study a variety of grammars to abstract generalizations, often in the form of "If X holds true, then Y occurs." These have been extended to a range of traits, from the phonemes found in languages, to what word orders languages choose, to why children exhibit certain linguistic behaviors.

Linguists who have influenced this theory include Noam Chomsky, Edward Sapir and Richard Montague.

Some linguists oppose the universal grammar theory; one of its strongest opponents is Michael Tomasello, who claims that it is possible for children to learn a language without being born with grammatical rules. He believes that universal grammar theories are not falsifiable, arguing that the grammatical generalizations made are simply observations about existing languages and not predictions about what is possible in a language. Proponents of UG argue that their theories make extremely strong predictions of this kind (often too strong, failing to allow for grammatical phenomena which are in fact observed).

See also

References

Chomsky, N. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. MIT Press, 1965. ISBN 0262530074. Tomasello, M. Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Harvard University Press, 2003. ISBN 0674010302.de:Universalgrammatik he:דקדוק אוניברסלי

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