LSA.116 | Language Universals and Grammatical Theory: From Generalizations to Explanation
course web site: http://ling.ucsd.edu/~polinsky/LSA_Summer_05/
This course confronts the goal of discovering language universals
- characteristics common to all languages - with the more complex
and less predictable patterns we find when we look across languages.
How can language universals be established? We will compare top-down
and bottom-up approaches to universals and examine cases where the
two approaches complement each other. The top-down approach seeks
to constrain the potential range of variation based on articulated
theoretical predictions. The bottom up approach focuses on the relationship
between language-internal and general phenomena and derives universal
principles by determining which aspects of grammar are motivated
by independent principles. Both approaches deal with macro- and
micro-variation, but often differ in the way this variation is motivated.
We will examine competing explanations for language universals:
the general structure of the language faculty; principles of processing;
diachronic change/grammaticalization. These fundamental issues in
language universals will be explored through the prism of several
linguistic phenomena. We will begin with the classical material
of language universals (word order, headedness, alignment) and will
then analyze less studied phenomena: lexical categories, BE vs.
HAVE language types, and sentence focus constructions.
Professor Polinsky's office hours are:
Week 1: Thursday 9-10am
Weeks 2 and 3: Tuesday 9-10 am