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I just found an interesting list of syntactic
features deemed to be fundamental, in the sense
that they occur in all (or at least the vast
majority?) of human languages, as opposed to
"ornamental" features which may be more or less
useful but arise as a chance outcome of diacronic
change (I guess what Lass would call "making
things out of junk.  I think it may have some
value to us as a checklist.  The author , John
McWhorter, explains the background and purpose of
the list in a way I can hardly improve or usefully
abbreviate, so here goes:

# The question naturally arises here as to how we
# might distinguish between features that are
# ornamental to human language versus those that are
# fundamental. I would like to venture the simple
# but strong claim that ornamental features are
# encountered in only a subset of the world's
# grammars rather than in all of them. What, then,
# are the fundamental features? Bickerton (1988:
# 278) anticipates me on this question, listing
# "certain minimal grammatical functions that
# must be discharged" in a natural language.
# His list is derived from traits common in
# creoles, but these purposes require a
# modification of the list to accommodate a
# typologically broad perspective, as well as a
# considerable expansion to attempt as full as
# possible an account of what is necessary to a
# natural language. This list is composed with
# an agnostic view toward what features may be
# genetically specified by Universal Grammar
# versus those that are universal to language
# for cognitive reasons:
#
# a. Definite/indefinite opposition (possibly via
#    zero marking of one)
# b. Nouns
# c. Adjectives (although in many languages the
#    class is very small, with most property items
#    being verbs)
# d. Verbs (claims that certain Native American or
#    Southeast Asian languages have no distinction
#    between nouns and verbs is at present
#    controversial)
# e. A dative/benefactive marking strategy
# f. An oblique case marking strategy
# g. A plural marking strategy (although only used
#    emphatically in many grammars)
# h. Pronouns for three persons (certain languages
#    do not distinguish number in pronouns)
# i. A proximal and a distal demonstrative
# j. Spatial deictics (or nominals used in this
#    function)
# k. One general locative preposition
# 1. One modality marker of obligation and one of
#    probability
# m. Causative marking
# n. A subordination strategy (not all languages
#    have a distinct relativization strategy)
# o. Adverbs
# p. A focus marking strategy
# q. A topic marking strategy
# r. Question words
# s. A conjunction and (or a word with a broader
#    usage subsuming the domain of and)
# t. Interjections
#
# Particularly noticeable may be the absence of
# tense or aspect marking; I omit these because
# there do exist languages with no such overt
# markers, nor any sign of any items
# grammaticalizing as such (e.g., the Papuan
# language Maybrat [Dol 1999]). Neither are overt
# reflexive pronouns universals; many languages use
# unmarked pronouns reflexively and a nominal such
# as "body" to express explicit reflexiveness;
# reciprocals are similarly optional cross-
# linguistically.
#
# This preliminary list is obviously rather
# underspecified in places but is designed to serve
# as a rough but useful outline of what all natural
# languages have in common in terms of overtly
# manifested concepts.
#
# McWhorter, John H. (Author). Defining Creole.
# Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press,
# Incorporated, 2005. p 76-77.
#

/BP 8^)>
-- 
Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
  à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
  ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
  c'est qu'elles meurent."           (Victor Hugo)