There is enormous diversity among human languages in the world. At the same time, linguists have observed a number of common properties holding across all (or a significant majority of) languages. Such common properties are called language universals. In this class we focus on language universals in the semantic domain. We study recent work investigating semantic universals in content and logical vocabulary, and discuss various explanations for what the source of semantic universals may be: pressures for communicative efficiency, ease of learning, and universal grammar, among others.
Class 1: Introduction to language universals (Uegaki)
Classes 2 and 3: Kinship terms and complexity/informativeness trade-off explanation (Denić)
Class 4: Color terms and ease of learning explanation (Denić)
Class 5: Syntax and semantics of quantification (Uegaki)
Class 1: Universals in the domain of quantification: monotonicity (Denić)
Class 2: Universals in the domain of quantification: conservativity (Denić)
Class 3: Conservativity and universal grammar explanation (Uegaki)
Class 4: Semantic universals in other domains: connectives, indefinite pronouns, personal pronouns (Uegaki)
Class 5: Critical discussion and future research directions (Uegaki)
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