Languages and Universals
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
A central question of linguistic research for nearly a half century has been whether there are properties universal to all human languages. There are many ways of conceptualizing linguistic universals, but at the core, the idea of linguistic universals asserts that some observed properties of human language are arbitrary—the fact that “dog” is pronounced [d g] in English, [kæ] in Korean and [mbwa] in Swahili—but a number of facts of language are not random and arbitrary. If there are non-random properties of linguistic structure, questions arise regarding those properties: what are they; how do we identify them; why do they exist?