Universal Grammar

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Grammar, Universal


a system formed from the universal grammatical categories necessarily present in natural languages and determined by universal laws of thinking, the uniform structure of the world as reflected in human consciousness, and the analogous nature of the requirements and aims of communication (hence, the sentence, predicate, subject, object, number, tense, question, command).

Most universal grammatical categories are logical. A generally accepted example of a grammar based on logical and grammatical categories is the Port-Royal Grammar, constructed by A. Arnauld and C. Lancelot at the French Abbey of Port-Royal (Arnauld and Lancelot, Grammaire générale et raisonnée, 1660). According to some contemporary theories, universal grammatical categories form the deep structure of a language, which, by applying a set of grammatical rules, can be transformed into surface structures—that is, specific sentences expressed in a given language.

Universal grammar also includes the grammatical theory that determines the internal subdivisions of this discipline, the specific character and types of grammatical meanings and categories, and the special features of their interrelationship that form the grammatical system of a language.

Universal grammar studies all the possible means of expressing grammatical meanings in the world’s languages and develops methods of grammatical analysis. Important tasks of universal grammar are the unification and standardization of grammatical terms and the definition of their corresponding concepts.


Jespersen, O. Filosofiia grammatiki. Moscow, 1958. (Translated from English.)
Panfilov, V. Z. Grammatika i logika. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Admoni, V. G. Osnovy teorii grammatiki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Issledovaniia po obshchei teorii grammatiki. Moscow, 1968.
Universals in Linguistic Theory. New York, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Linguistic theory, universal grammar, and second language acquisition.
Clahsen, Harald, and Peter Muysken 1986: "The Availability of Universal Grammar to Adult and Child Learners: A Study of the Acquisition of German Word Order." Second Language Research 2: 93-119.
Verb movement, universal grammar, and the structure of IP.
Towards a universal definition of "subject of." In Universal Grammar: Fifteen Essays, Edward L.
Universal grammar is the initial state of language faculty, and those who take the principles and practices approach to it apply a set of universal principles and a finite array of options as to how they apply.
Hulk and Jean-Yves Pollock (eds.): Subject Inversion in Romance and the Theory of Universal Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Progovac (linguistics, Wayne State U.) examines the functional projections of the clause in Serbian, in an effort to tie together the description and explanation of syntactic phenomena in Serbian with the theory of Universal Grammar. Coverage includes a basic overview of word order possibilities in Serbian, and basic movement rules; polarity phrases in Serbian and evidence of the existence of two such phrases; analysis of tense phrases and agreement phrases which suggests that they come in two layers/manifestations--subject and object; description and analysis of the perfective/imperfective patterns of Serbian aspect; second-position cliticization; negation and polarity; and the event pronominal to.
Within generative grammar, the term parameter refers to mutually exclusive options, ideally binary, that universal grammar (henceforth UG) makes available in principle; on the basis of their input learners have to decide which of these options is implemented in their target language.
Coverage includes discussion of the parameterization of principles of Universal Grammar; a critique of the parametric approach to grammar and the idea that it is the job of Universal Grammar per se to account for typological generalizations; a defense of the classical Saussurean conception of grammar; and the relationship between performance pressure on grammar and the typological distribution of formal elements.
But more so because they point at SLR's fundamental consequences for the ongoing construction of a truly universal grammar. For some decades linguistic theory has accepted as a proven fact that speech need not be the true and only universal for all languages.
All derive from comparative studies of Germanic while at the same time addressing long-standing problems in syntactic theory and universal grammar. Specific topics addressed include verb second as a function of Merge; nonnative acquisition of verb second; clause union and clausal position; the facts and patterns of Expl-distribution; a comparison of reflexives in contexts of reduced valency in German and Dutch; a comparison of simple present tense in English and its equivalent in several other European languages; possessor licensing, definiteness and case in Scandinavian; and pronouns as determiners.
This paper investigates the claim that the native grammar of the learners is the initial state of second-language acquisition, as far as the acquisition of universal grammar parameters is concerned.

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