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Is Universal Grammar ready for retirement? A short review of a longstanding misinterpretation


In this paper I consider recent studies that deny the existence of Universal Grammar (UG), and I show how the concept of UG that is attacked in these works is quite different from Chomsky’s, and thus that such criticisms are not valid. My principal focus is on the notions of ‘linguistic specificity’ and of ‘innateness’, and I conclude that, since the controversy about UG is based on misinterpretations, it is rendered sterile and thus does unnecessary harm to linguistic science. I also address the underlying reasons for these misunderstandings and suggest that, once they have been clarified, there is much scope for complementary approaches that embrace different research traditions within current theoretical linguistics.

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Author’s address: Department of General and Hispanic Linguistics, University of Zaragoza, C/ Pedro Cerbuna 12, E-50009 Zaragoza, Spain
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I am grateful to three anonymous JL referees and editor Kersti Börjars for comments and suggestions. My research was supported by the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) & FEDER (EU) grant FFI2017-82460-P.

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