| Definition -
A language fact that is true of all spoken languages, e.g. every language uses nouns and verbs.
1. The field of linguistic universals was pioneered by Joseph Greenberg. From a study of 30 languages, he derived forty-five universals. Some of which are:
(i) In declarative sentences with a subject and an object, the subject almost always precedes the object.
(ii) When a yes-no question is indicated by intonation, the intonational feature is at the end of the sentence not the beginning.
2. A 2011 study used methods from evolutionary biology to trace the development of grammar in several language families. It concluded that cultural evolution, not the brain, drives language development. "These findings support the view that — at least with respect to word order — cultural evolution is the primary factor that determines linguistic structure, with the current state of a linguistic system shaping and constraining future states." To read the complete article, click here.