List of unsolved problems in linguistics

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This article discusses currently unsolved problems in linguistics.

Some of the issues below are commonly recognized as unsolved problems; i.e. it is generally agreed that no solution is known. Others may be described as controversies; i.e. although there is no common agreement about the answer, there are established schools of thought that believe they have a correct answer.

Concepts[edit]

  • Is there a universal definition of word?
  • Is there a universal definition of sentence?
  • Are there any universal grammatical categories?
  • Can the elements contained in words (morphemes) and the elements contained in sentences (syntactic constituents) be shown to follow the same principles?
  • How are domains for phonological processes related to syntactic structure? Do prosodic domains deviate from syntactic constituent structure?
  • Is it possible to formally delineate languages from each other? That is to say, is it possible to use linguistic (rather than social) criteria to draw a clear boundary between two closely related languages with a dialect continuum between their respective standard forms (e.g. Occitan and Catalan)?
  • How does grammaticalization function?
  • How do creole languages emerge?
  • How does lexical substitution function given the potentially limitless number of different contexts, the limits of one's knowledge and the limits of one's understanding and usage of language?
  • How do idiolects and dialects emerge? Are there any common patterns in their development? Can they be quantatively and qualitatively measured at all and if yes, how?

Philosophy of language[edit]

Languages[edit]

Psycholinguistics[edit]

Sociolinguistics[edit]

Computational linguistics[edit]

  • Is perfect computational word-sense disambiguation attainable by using software? Is yes, how and why? If no, why? (This presupposes the solution to the unsolved problems in the other areas of linguistics as a basis.)
  • Is accurate computational word-sense induction feasable? If yes, how and why? If not, why?

Lexicology and lexicography[edit]

Translation[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Givon, Talmy; Bertram F. Malle (2002). The Evolution of Language Out of Pre-language. John Benjamins. ISBN 1-58811-237-3. 
  2. ^ Deacon, Terrence (1997). The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain. W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-571-17396-9. 
  3. ^ MacNeilage, Peter, 2008. The Origin of Speech. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ Botha, R. and C. Knight (eds) 2009. The Cradle of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ a b Lewis, M. Paul, ed. (2009). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16 ed.). Dallas: SIL International. ISBN 1-55671-216-2. 
  6. ^ "Simulated Evolution of Language: a Review of the Field", Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 5, no. 2
  7. ^ Robert Spence, "A Functional Approach to Translation Studies. New systemic linguistic challenges in empirically informed didactics", 2004, ISBN 3-89825-777-0, thesis. A pdf file