Universal Grammar
Ian Roberts, Jeffrey Watumull, Noam Chomsky
September 2023

Is language universal? In particular, is the grammar—the computational system in the mind/brain—that powers human language universal? Could it be universal in the way laws of nature are universal such that any sufficiently intelligent system would all but inevitably converge on it (in either its evolution or its science)? Here we will expound on the conjecture that the answers to these questions are affirmative: grammar—particularly human grammar—is not specific to our species, but universal in the deepest of senses. The implications for xenolinguistics are obviously profound: we should predict that any extraterrestrial intelligence (ET)—indeed any sufficiently intelligent system—we encounter would likely be endowed with a cognitive computational system that runs human-style linguistic “software”, thus eliminating any principled limit to effective communication. However, there would likely be significant differences in the “hardware” used to physically externalize linguistic information, but these would pose mere engineering problems rather than conceptual ones. Indeed, it is not unreasonable to think that the combined intelligence of humans and ETs could overcome these. In that case, effective communication between these “universal minds” would be guaranteed.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/007573
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Xenolinguistics: Towards a Science of Extraterrestrial Language
keywords: xenolinguistics, universal grammar, merge, economy, syntax
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