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universal grammar

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of language Also called general grammar or philosophical grammar. In contrast to particular grammar, which is the grammar peculiar to a particular language, universal grammar refers to the deep-seated regularities in linguistic categories, rules , and processes that underlie the diversity of natural languages. It consists of a set of genetically determined rules and principles common to all natural languages. Universal grammar is rooted in human linguistic capacity and is the necessary and sufficient natural condition for any language to be possible. It is a basic biological endowment of the initial state of the human mind. Because of universal grammar, a child can effortlessly acquire language. According to Chomsky , the idea of a universal grammar was common for eighteenth-century linguists such as Beattie and Du Marsa, but was ignored by modern linguistics. He revived the notion and believes that without being supplemented by a universal grammar, a grammar of a particular language cannot provide a full account of the speaker-hearer's competence. The natural necessity of universal grammar as a condition of the possibility of language can be compared with the a priori intuitions and categories that were held by Kant to be the transcendentally necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. “Such a ‘universal grammar’ (to modify slightly a traditional ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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