Language Universals and Linguistic Knowledge

Sonia Cristofaro

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199281251
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Language Universals and Linguistic Knowledge

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  • Linguistics
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Cognitive Linguistics



This article describes the different stances on language universals. A number of arguments are offered supporting the view that typological universals as such should not be regarded as part of a speaker's linguistic knowledge. The article also argues that there is no evidence that a speaker's linguistic knowledge consists of an inventory of universal grammatical categories and relations which can be defined in formal terms. Three types of universal elements are posited that are manifested in the grammatical organization of human languages: universals of language proper, functional principles, and the range of conceptual situations which can be encoded by linguistic expressions. In addition, the cross-linguistic validity of grammatical relations, and a number of problems with this approach, are reviewed. There appears to be no evidence for universals in the sense of Universal Grammar.

Keywords: language universals; linguistic knowledge; grammatical organization; functional principles; linguistic expressions; Universal Grammar; human languages

Article.  10366 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Linguistic Typology ; Cognitive Linguistics

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