Language Universals and Usage-Based Theory
This chapter discusses the usage-based theory of language. It argues that from this perspective there are very few synchronic universals in the sense of features that can be found in all languages. The only synchronic universal is that all languages have at least some minimal derivational morphology. It further argues that language change has to be taken into account in order to understand language universals. Factors relating to language use—such as frequency of usage—lead to grammaticalization, which tends to follow specific developmental paths. It suggests that language universals may be best viewed in terms of such unidirectional paths of linguistic change, driven by constraints arising from domain-general processes rather than ones that are specific to language.
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