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> On Jul 15, 2015, at 2:17 AM, Patrik Austin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> It would seem safe to any linguist to say that Universal Grammar is rubbish. But then you won't be able to answer the fundamental question as to why all natural languages are essentially so similar?

I’ll print this verbatim from Sean Crist’s website:

> Why are there no plaid rocks?
> Striped rocks are common, but plaid rocks are very rare. Why?
> 
> There is nothing wrong with plaid rocks. If you had millions of years to perform the experiment, there is nothing to stop you from piling up sand in the right way to produce plaid rocks. There is no inherent property in sand or rocks which prohibits plaidness. The molecules which make up the rocks do not come encoded with a "universal grammar of stone" which prefers stripes over plaids.
> 
> The reason that striped rocks are common and plaid rocks are rare is that natural processes, governed by very broad physical principles such as gravity, tend to deposit silt in horizontal layers, not in plaid patterns.
> 
> The same sort of thing is probably true of languages. The set of language types which we observe is the set of language types which history is capable of producing. There may be language types which are permitted by the cognitive apparatus, but which are never observed, because the processes of history tend not to produce them.

I don’t think it’s a particularly interesting question, why natural languages are so similar (i.e. I think the answer is pretty dull). Whether all possible communication systems have enough important elements in common to posit a “fundamental grammar” is an interesting question, but I think it’s a separate one. I’d almost think that natural languages, being so messy, wouldn’t even be germane, or at least not at the beginning. I’ve got no background in this area, though, so that’s just a guess.

David Peterson
LCS Member Since 2007
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http://www.artoflanguageinvention.com/

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