The Fall and Rise of Universals on Relativization
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
This article discusses linguistic universals concerning relative clause constructions, which are relatively well-studied, both by typologists and theoreticians. It turns out that several universal statements formulated in the past—e.g., in Downing’s (1978) seminal work— must be weakened to tendencies or less on the basis of present knowledge. Following Odden (2003), statistical universals are rejected for the reason that cross-linguistic statistics is inherently unreliable, and may have nonlinguistic causes. However, some absolute universals and universal implications concerning relativization still stand; moreover, some interesting new ones can be formulated. If these universals can be maintained, they constitute (indirect) hypotheses concerning the human language faculty, which need to find an explanation within a specific linguistic model.