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date: 20 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter draws a distinction between Universal Grammar (the initial state of the computational system that underwrites the human capacity for language) and the Language Acquisition Device (the complex of components of the mind/brain involved in constructing grammar+lexicon pairs upon exposure to primary linguistic data). It then considers whether there are any substantive phonological components of Universal Grammar strictu sensu. Two of the strongest empirical arguments for the existence of such phonological content in UG have been (i) apparent constraints on the space of variation induced from the typological record, and (ii) apparently universal dispreferences against certain phonological configurations (known as markedness). The chapter examines these arguments in the light of recent literature, concluding that the phenomena submit at least as well to historical, phonetic, or other non-UG explanations. We suggest that language acquisition experiments, involving natural and artificial languages, may be a more fruitful domain for future research into these questions.

Keywords: evolutionary phonology, historical linguistics, Language Acquisition Device, markedness, Optimality Theory, Persian, phonology, typology

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