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Universal grammar is dead

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2009

Michael Tomasello
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.


The idea of a biologically evolved, universal grammar with linguistic content is a myth, perpetuated by three spurious explanatory strategies of generative linguists. To make progress in understanding human linguistic competence, cognitive scientists must abandon the idea of an innate universal grammar and instead try to build theories that explain both linguistic universals and diversity and how they emerge.

Open Peer Commentary
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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Tomasello, M. (2003a) Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Tomasello, M. (2008) The origins of human communication. MIT Press.Google Scholar