Talk:Universal grammar

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Questions[edit]

It is difficult to understand what Universal Grammar is on the basis of this and other articles on Wikipedia (and elsewhere). Sometimes it is explained in a way that makes it sound completely obvious, and at other times it is explained in a way that makes it completely incomprehensible. As an example of the first phenomenon, one hears things like 'Proponents of this view argue that the pace at which children learn languages is inexplicably rapid, unless children have an innate ability to learn languages' (in the Noam Chomsky article, which is probably edited more often than this one). It is completely obvious that children have an innate ability to learn languages, since they learn languages, whereas cats, for example, don't. So unless linguists are using the words 'innate' and 'ability' in some unexplained way that does not correspond with the ordinary use of these words, this doesn't make any sense. So far, James Hurford seems to be right.

As an example of incomprehensibility – in this article it says 'Linguist Noam Chomsky made the argument that the human brain contains a limited set of rules for organizing language. In turn, there is an assumption that all languages have a common structural basis.' First of all, what does it mean for the brain to contain 'a set of rules'? Then at the end of the article, it says, 'Universal Grammar is made up of a set of rules that apply to most or all natural human languages. Most of these rules come in the form of "if a language has a feature X, it will also have the feature Y."' So it would seem that UG claims that the human brain, presumably already at birth, contains 'rules' like 'If a language has a word for purple, it will have a word for red.' It is nice to learn that my brain has innate knowledge of that, because just a few minutes ago I myself did not know it.

In any case, how is this rule about red and purple a rule about language? It seems to be a statement concerning color. It is roughly comparable to something like, 'if a child can count to ten, she can count to six'. KBry (talk) 18:01, 17 October 2009 (UTC)

answer to first criticizm[edit]

mentioned in the article: Some linguists oppose the universal grammar theory. Geoffrey Sampson maintains that universal grammar theories are not falsifiable, arguing that the grammatical generalizations made are simply observations about existing languages and not predictions about what is possible in a language.

first: the criticizm needs reason

second: every experiment is "observations about existing languages" but the result is used to predict future depending on the amount of times thhat the experiment is repeated and confirmed again. the languages of the world are so much that if we study even one hundred of them, we can rely on the results of this theory for prediction.

third: this so called theory is still a movement toward a theory. it has not been finished. so it must be clearly mentioned in sentences before it is rejected

Saeed.Veradi 07:20, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

Initial discussion[edit]

First proposed by Noam Chomsky, Universal Grammar is that part of language that can be considered to be innate. As children develop they go through a stage of language acquisition which occurs much more rapidly than for most other mental abilities. This, along with many structural similarities between languages, suggests that there is a part of the human brain pre-wired through evolution allowing us to quickly assimilate and recognize linguistic patterns.

For example, the use of certain types of verbs implies a fixed set of possible nouns. "Come" for example implies one associated noun, a subject. In English we say "John is coming", in French "Jean vient". "Send" implies two associated nouns, a subject and an object. "John is sending a letter" in English. Or "Jan posla dopis" in Czech. "Give" on the other hand implies three nouns; a subject, direct object and indirect object, in this case the recipient. In English: "John is giving the letter to Mary". In French: "Jean donne la lettre à Marie". While what makes languages unique is the inability of non-speakers to understand phrases, phrases and sentences governed by verbs show similar patterns through all languages, as illustrated by the previous sentences. This similarity suggests that while sound and word patterns are specifically unique for any given language, there remains certain aspects of the underlying structure which is universal to all languages.

Universal Grammar covers the search for these common linguistic reflexes, and research into the mechanisms at work within the brain that make language acquisition possible.

You are wrong. These restrictions are not restrictions of some "universal grammar", these are logical restrictions of our world. and another mistake: Jan posla dopis. is not correct. (wrong inflection) Jan posílá dopis. is correct. However, subject is not required in Czech, so posílá dopis ( =He is sending a letter) is correct as well. Languages are not as similar as you think.--SuperElephant 07:19, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

I have to disagree with SuperElephant on this one. Although inclusion of the subject may not be required in Czech (or Spanish or French, for that matter) the subject is still implied by the conjugation of the verb. Languages my friend, are MORE similar than you are willing to believe. Lpjurca (talk) 18:48, 20 May 2008 (UTC)

Article cleanup[edit]

There was considerable redundancy and verbal fat in this article. Expressions like underlying principles, shared in common, that there exists and all human beings are all good examples of verbal excess.--NathanHawking 00:34, 2004 Oct 14 (UTC)


It seems to me that the parenthetical aside in last sentence in the main entry is confusing: "Proponents of UG argue that their theories make extremely strong predictions of this kind (often too strong, failing to allow for grammatical phenomena which are in fact observed)."

Why would proponents argue that their theories are too strong? Isn't the parenthetical comment meant to say something like..."while opponents say that such predictions are often too strong...etc."? Or am I misreading the sentence? --User:Jeffmatt

I've removed it. This point cannot be dealt with in a sentence. It needs proper discussion, with examples and references. dab () 17:43, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

What does this mean?[edit]

The idea that universal grammar is supported by the creole languages is the fact that such languages all share certain features.

Should this be something like "...comes from the fact..."? Loganberry (Talk) 00:57, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Eurocentric[edit]

The theory is also criticized because Chomsky makes too much of the similarity of a small group of languages (English, French, German, maybe some others - haven't read Chomsky lately, so I don't remember which), narrowing the subject matter so that one could hardly fail to find underlying forms. Truly universal grammar would include every actually existing language and any language that could exist (making it rather tough to falsify his theory, of course). 72.144.92.159 22:26, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

I'd love a citation for that for the article. CRGreathouse (t | c) 23:19, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

Erm...[edit]

I shan't edit the article because, frankly, this is a question. The poverty of stimulus argument seems rather out of whack. Sure, a child will not hear grammatical constructs unacceptable in the local language, but what of it? Having had experience with three year olds, they often produce themselves horribly incomprehensible (to anyone but their parents) grammatical nightmares. When they use them, adults tell them that what they have said makes no sense. That's not poverty of stimulus, that's an abundance of it.

In other words, while children may not hear unacceptable grammar very often, they can very easily come to understand what is and is not acceptable by experimentation.

As it currently reads, the argument in the article can be refuted by the very fact that children are not mute.

Either the article needs to do a better job of explaining the theory, or the theory is simply useless. I am more inclined towards the former. In either regard, I am not comptetent to fix the article. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 69.113.219.44 (talk) 06:23, 11 March 2007 (UTC).

UG is falsifiable[edit]

"Some linguists oppose the universal grammar theory; it is outspokenly opposed by Geoffrey Sampson, who maintains that it is possible for children to learn a language without being born with grammatical rules. Sampson believes that universal grammar theories are not falsifiable, arguing that the grammatical generalizations made are simply observations about existing languages and not predictions about what is possible in a language."

Here's why I marked this with {{fact}}: If a language that violates UG is harder to learn, then there exists an experiment to judge whether language A is harder to learn than language B. Randomly selected parents fluent in A raise children. Randomly selected parents fluent in B raise children. If children in language A households take longer to speak "correctly", then language A is harder to learn.

Or by "falsifiable" do you mean "falsifiable without violating research ethics"? If so, please direct your comment to this other talk page, which I am also watching. --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk) 16:42, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

that's nonsense. Your experiment just measures which language is harder, nothing to do with UG. Plus, there is no way you can {{fact}} a direct citation. The fact we report is that this is Geoffrey Sampson's opinion, not that UG is, in fact, not falsifiable. dab (𒁳) 17:18, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
If UG is defined as "patterns in language that the brain is wired to more easily accept", then "language A is hard" and "language A violates UG" are equivalent statements. And is a citation of an author's entire oeuvre considered a "direct citation", or can this paragraph cite a specific work by Sampson? --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk) 17:37, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
You are saying "if you accept UG, you'll have to accept UG". That's precisely the argument of people who claim UG is not falsifiable: "violates UG" is just a fancy way of saying "is hard", then. Don't try to build a case here, ask for (and provide) citations. If your citation request is for a direct quote of Sampson, that's fair enough. dab (𒁳) 18:31, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Even under a tautological definition of UG, a distinction must be made between the UG criticisms along the line "all languages are equally easy for a child to acquire" and those along the line "the learning tendencies that emerge from language acquisition do not rise to the level of 'grammatical rules'". And yes, I just want an example of a work so that other editors can interlibrary borrow a copy of one of his works and verify that he wrote what the article claims that he wrote. I hope that my revised position of the {{fact}} request within the paragraph makes this clearer. --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk) 18:46, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't think a "all languages are equally easy for a child to acquire" criticism even exists, since that's patently not the case. I agree we need a citation, and I suggest we strike Sampson, since he is, by all appearances, an idiot. Personally, I think UG is, in fact, falsifiable, and false at that. Unless, of course, you water it down enough so that it becomes just a tautology, in which case it is not false, but merely devoid of information. I'll provide some literature to that effect. dab (𒁳) 18:58, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Idiot is who belives such pseudoscientific crap theories like universal grammar or intelligent design.--SuperElephant 07:47, 3 September 2007 (UTC)
Because many ( or even most? ) human languages have not been studied in any depth, the "rules" laid out in Universal Grammar are predictions of what will be discovered about languages whose structures have yet to be studied. Assuming they don't become extinct before we get around to it. By definition, this is falsifiable - just as Darwin himself predicted that, if his theory is correct, transitional fossils should be discovered. These aren't the types of predictions you would expect from particle physics being confirmed at CERN, but they're predictions nonetheless. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 207.138.32.33 (talk) 21:12, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Examples[edit]

I was wondering if we could talk a bit about particular theories or aspects of particular theories of universal grammar, to illustrate the topic. I was also under the impression that some constructed languages violate the rules of some particular theories of universal grammar? -- Beland (talk) 17:54, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

Such an assertion about conlangs that fail UG used to be in the article until it got removed for lack of citation. --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk) 18:27, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
Examples - rules laid out by UG - are sorely needed. I've only encountered a few specifics in my reading, and, honestly, they seem on weak footing to me. I'll add these, and hope that some ruleslawyering edit-warring Wikipedian doesn't remove them for personal taste reasons, but expect it to happen anyway. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 207.138.32.33 (talk) 21:15, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Notes vs references[edit]

This is very confusing, and should be consolidated into only one list. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 207.138.32.33 (talk) 23:48, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Criticism (CG, etc.)[edit]

The criticism section is still lacking the objection raised by Cognitive Linguistics (and largely confirmed by psycholinguistic data): that most or all "universals" we find in languages (e.g., categorical perception, physical and cognitive biases) are not specifically linguistic (and sometimes not even specifically human), and so the notion of a Universal Grammar is unnecessary and probably wrong (cf. Tomasello, Lakoff, etc.). Currently, the article makes it seem as though any confirmed universal must be evidence for "UG", which is obviously not true.

Incidentally, the article also fails to point out the fact that the overwhelming majority of psychologists, psycholinguists, biologists, educators and non-generative linguists don't buy the idea of UG as stated by Chomsky, precisely due to a lack of empirical evidence outside generative descriptive models.201.37.75.85 (talk) 22:32, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

I've never edited a Wikipedia page before, and thought I'd leave that for now as it is a bit daunting. There is an interview (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2003/jun/26/scienceinterviews.artsandhumanities) with Larry Trask at the Guardian which rejects Universal Grammar, and I thought it may be useful to add a reference to this in some form in the criticism section. Rgardner07 (talk) 08:03, 15 August 2010 (UTC)rgardner07

Help needed for this poor article[edit]

This article is in sad shape, and the problems start from the very beginning. "Universal Grammar" was a term borrowed by Chomsky from French Enlightenment grammarians/philosophers -- and in Chomsky's usage was never intended or used as the name for a proposal or theory. So the very first sentence is wrong, and it's downhill from there on! "Universal Grammar" is the name for those aspects of linguistic structure whose properties arise from our common genetic heritage as humans, and more narrowly, for those properties that appear to be specific to language. The key point is that it's a name for those properties whatever they might turn out to be. That's how he introduced the term in his 1965 book Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (around page 6, if you want to look it up) and that's how he and others in the field have used it consistently ever since. Now Chomsky himself and many other linguists have made lots of specific proposals about what Universal Grammar does in fact consist of, and these are all controversial.

The task for a revision of this article needs to be first and foremost to make it clear how the term was used by Chomsky, how he adapted the earlier use by Enlightenment scholars, and then to give some NPOV characterization of how the wealth of commentary pitched as "criticism of UG" or "denial of UG" does or does not bear on actual proposals about UG.

In answer to the obvious critique of this comment - that "Wikipedia is written by us - why don't you start doing this yourself?", my worry is that the necessary revisions will inevitably amount to a rewriting of the entire article. That's a fearsome proposition, especially with so much more heat than light swirling around the concept "Universal Grammar" these days (see http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2507, for example). How can this be done in the real world in which we live? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 78.129.231.2 (talk) 19:32, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Reference edit war?[edit]

User 201.21.65.156 keeps removing a reference and undoing attempts to restore it -- three times within less than 24 hours. Please undo your edit and take the discussion to this page. Thank you!18.100.8.89 (talk) 16:50, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

I refer you to my edit summaries:

  • -9/08 (1): "This was added 2 edits ago [by yourself] with no justification and it isn't a key work on the subject. Ideally, this section should have works cited in the article, not random texts. Others in the list should go as well."
  • and
  • -9/08 (2): "You added a pretty average work to a supposed list of key references and keep adding it without a proper justification. Are you from MIT? I sense a wikipedia:COI here."

That's it. If you still want to add it again, though, and there is no objection, go ahead. But I still don't think the ref belongs in that section (or that a random list of uncited works should be there anyway, but that's a different issue).201.21.65.156 (talk) 17:22, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

Thank you. Yes, I have added it back, since 24 hours went by with no objection. The references list is not normally reserved for "key works", but rather for helpful works. Since this is a clear article that covers some additional ground, published in a well-known reference work, and is web-accessible, I think it is worth adding, though not worth fighting over. Thank you for your reasonableness.18.100.8.82 (talk) 01:42, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

The ip address is MIT. And the linked pdf file is in the professor's own space on the MIT server with no link on his own page. So how did the editor know the location of the pdf? ps The pdf is self published so cannot be a reference (Is it OK to assume the pdf is the same as the book?) The pdf is pretty useless as you cannot read far without a password to log on to the MIT server. QuentinUK (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 12:52, 14 April 2011 (UTC).

"Universal Grammar" or "universal grammar"?[edit]

This article uses both "Universal Grammar" and "universal grammar". Which one should it be? --Mortense (talk) 19:08, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

Don't forget the title is "Universal grammar" QuentinUK (talk) 10:40, 14 April 2011 (UTC)
I see both capitalized and uncapitalized in sources, but based on Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#Science_and_mathematics it looks like we should go with lowercase. -- Beland (talk) 16:29, 5 May 2016 (UTC)
Would you suggest we request a move back to the original capitalization? (It appears that we'd need an admin since there's a redirect in the way from the requested move carried out on February 9.) Me, Myself & I (☮) (talk) 04:08, 6 May 2016 (UTC)

If a language has a word for purple, it will have a word for red.[edit]

This article spends more time arguing about whether Universal Grammar is true than explaining the rules.

Purple/Red: is this really a rule of Universal Grammar, it seems very specific!

1) Wouldn't the rule be "if a language has words for secondary colours it has words for primary colours"?

or more generally,

2) If the definition of a word depends on the existence of another word this other word must exist. ("purple is the colour between red and blue")

QuentinUK (talk) 12:34, 14 April 2011 (UTC)

Hardly a theory[edit]

It should be made clear that this "theory" is hardly proven and is more of a hypothesis. Probably why most of the article is trying to prove it without actually stating what the grammar is.

It has been debunked in Nature: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110413/full/news.2011.231.html

QuentinUK (talk) 17:13, 14 April 2011 (UTC)

The "debunking" itself is now debunked. See the commentary and especially the discussion at http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3088. Also the admission by Nature's own editorial writer that the article probably should not have been published, on his blog at http://philipball.blogspot.com/2011/04/universal-blues.html.Jezykowiąd (talk) 12:01, 12 May 2011 (UTC)

Innateness hypothesis[edit]

The stub article Innateness hypothesis appears to me to be on the same subject and better converted to a redirect to Universal grammar. Any views from people more expert than me? Dudley Miles (talk) 17:57, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Should a verbatim quote be in italics[edit]

This is verbatim from the source and identical to the present text:

"suggesting that language learning, like any other kind of learning, could be explained by a succession of trials, errors, and rewards for success.[4] In other words, children learned their mother tongue by simple imitation, listening to and repeating what adults said."

Comments pleaseGatorinvancouver (talk) 22:28, 3 May 2012 (UTC)

The theory makes absurd predictions.[edit]

The nativism called "universal grammar" actually predicts that adaptation to different languages should, by natural selection, have produced groups of humans genetically incapable of learning foreign languages. That racist prediction have been conclusively disproved in lots of studies. Avoiding falsifiability by avoiding extrapolation of theories to their logical extremes is not scientific at all. Furthermore, there is no way to explain why a vast range of redundant linguistic capacities obviously not needed to build a complex language (no language uses the whole worldwide range and some languages only use a very small fraction of it) should have evolved in the first place. This is explained in more detail on the pages "Brain" and "Origin of language" (and to some extent "Piraha"), all on Pure science Wiki, a wiki devoted to the pure scientific method unaffected by academic obsession with status and prestige. 95.209.8.118 (talk) 13:37, 8 January 2013 (UTC)Martin J Sallberg

By my reading, it predicts the opposite; since all human languages are resumed to follow the same universal rules, they should all be relatively easy to learn compared to other similar structures (like computer languages, where we have to use our cognitive facility and not so much the built-in natural language facility). It is necessary to learn language-specific parameters, but the theory is that the set of parameters one needs to learn is fixed and universal. As for the evolutionary question, it may be that a more constrained system which supports only the grammar of a particular language rather than the grammars of all languages, is actually more complicated and harder to evolve. I also don't think that human languages are stable long enough for natural selection to really be affected by a specific grammar. In any case, if these criticisms are not merely misunderstandings and are to go in the article, they should be referenced to expert sources. I couldn't find the pages you mentioned on the Pure Science Wiki. -- Beland (talk) 16:54, 5 May 2016 (UTC)

Simplism[edit]

Simplist is to insist we persist to resist to say 
using the innate, generative, "universal grammar".
Thus you better appeal to artificial intelligence.
Then cognitive science back to human intelligence.
Machines that help think beat machines that think.
Such was the cognitive revolution in the nutshell.
Such was the cognitivist reaction to be ahistoric.

--KYPark (talk) 10:09, 30 May 2013 (UTC) --KYPark (talk) 10:18, 30 May 2013 (UTC) --KYPark (talk) 10:28, 30 May 2013 (UTC) --KYPark (talk) 10:38, 30 May 2013 (UTC) --KYPark (talk) 10:48, 30 May 2013 (UTC) --KYPark (talk) 10:58, 30 May 2013 (UTC) --KYPark (talk) 11:08, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

UG is probably not Chomsky's theory[edit]

I don't think it's really true that UG is Chomsky's theory whether attributed to him or not. The idea is so old you can say it dates all the way back to Aristotle, but no later than Arnauld & Lancelot's Port-Royal Grammar, 1660 (they called it 'Grammaire général'), which was actually based on Descartes' idea. This is well explained in the article ON THE PROJECT OF A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE XVII CENTURY PHILOSOPHY (please Google).

What Chomsky added to this old theory is his idea that universal grammar is biological. But science hasn't found anything to back Chomsky's idea. The way I see it, UG doesn't need him. Did Chomsky actually come up with the current term 'Universal Grammar' or is that borrowed, too? It's commonly used in historical context. I think the article should be revised. Piechjo (talk) 21:00, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

Possible Copyvio[edit]

The Chomsky's theory section of the article appears to contain some text copied from these slides. The bit that tipped me off to go looking was how strange this looks in the article:

"...For example, in English one cannot relate a question word like 'what' to a predicate within a relative clause (1):

(1) *What did John meet a man who sold?

Such expressions are not available to the language learners, because they are, by hypothesis, ungrammatical for speakers of the local language."

Why wouldn't we have just put a bullet point? It seems like it was copy-pasted from those slides and not the other way around to me. Zell Faze (talk) 20:39, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

Actually it can't possibly be a copyvio from that presentation. That presentation is from no earlier than 2010 and the insertion happened in 2006. See this diff. It still seems sketchy though. Zell Faze (talk) 20:47, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

This article is giving undue weight to anti-UG theories[edit]

As someone with a four-year degree in linguistics: Universal Grammar is an accepted fact among linguists. The notion that most people have something in them that can recognize the grammar of a language they learned as a child (and to a lesser extend, the grammar of a language they have learned as an adult) is taught as fact in linguistics classes. To challenge this, and the fact that someone who is a native speaker of a given language can always create and recognize grammatically correct sentences for the dialect they speak, is not mainstream linguistics.

Indeed, we have a pretty good idea where the universal grammar lies: In Broca's area of the brain, since people who lose this area still have vocabulary but lose their grammar. Indeed, one's vocabulary and other aspects of language which do not use universal grammar appear to reside in Wernicke's area of the brain.

This article gives undue weight to the fringe notions that there is no universal grammar, violating WP:NPOV

Samboy (talk) 06:55, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

The majority of changes I undid were done by a single purpose account which hasn’t been here for half a decade. Samboy (talk) 02:56, 3 January 2015 (UTC)

Steiner quote misattributed to Chomsky[edit]

In the "Chomsky's Theory" section, I'm removing the quotation "I think, yet the world thinks in me," as a misattribution. The article cites "Noam Chomsky / universal grammar" by Charlie Tronolone at RIT. Referring to that work leads to "Chomsky and the Universal Grammar" by Don Cruse. In Cruse's work, the quote is clearly attributed to Rudolf Steiner. I would treat the entire Tronolone article as specious, since it wrongly attributes several of Steiner's ideas to Chomsky. It's still unclear exactly where the quote originates, as Cruse is a little vague on the details, but I'm removing it from the article until someone can verify the original source. Bear in mind, Steiner died in 1925, 30 years before Chomsky's initial work on generative grammars, so the quote has little bearing on the theory, unless it was cited by Chomsky himself in his original formulation of the UG. --Commanche1 (talk) 00:26, 11 April 2015 (UTC)

X[edit]

"Property X" is mentioned in the article. This is meaningless and idiotic. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.26.5.99 (talk) 13:17, 29 April 2015 (UTC)

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Move or redact/split ...[edit]

... to Universal Grammar (Chomsky). As probably some threads above note, UG is bigger than and predates Chomsky. The current article conflates and confounds/conflates the general, actually universal thing with the specifically human and moreover the Chomskian one. Lycurgus (talk) 13:28, 24 November 2015 (UTC)

Requested move 1 February 2016[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: moved. Unopposed request. Number 57 15:45, 9 February 2016 (UTC)


Universal grammarUniversal Grammar – use capital G for Grammar, as used as a proper noun as the name of the theory, appears capitalised throughout the article. KTo288 (talk) 20:23, 1 February 2016 (UTC)


The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Requested move 19 June 2016[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved.(non-admin closure) Eventhorizon51 (talk) 02:18, 26 June 2016 (UTC)


Universal GrammarUniversal grammar – per MOSCAPS – Primergrey (talk) 23:12, 18 June 2016 (UTC)

This is a contested technical request (permalink). — Andy W. (talk ·ctb) 01:58, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
I don't see that RM as saying our MOS doesn't apply. I see one editor stating his preferred style and not being opposed. If there were any mention of the MOS it would surely have been to point out that it specifically supports downcasing in this instance. Primergrey (talk) 13:09, 20 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Moved to be discussed. This went through an RM 4 months ago. See Special:Diff/718793038, which made a copyedit and lowercased "Universal Grammar" to "universal grammar" throughout. Looking at sources, it appears that the capitalized UG version is more common. — Andy W. (talk ·ctb) 01:58, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

*Oppose This is generally capitalized. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 06:15, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

The article was a full mix of caps for this and other terms, and as far as "more common", our MOS requires an overwhelming majority to cap a simple term like this. Primergrey (talk) 16:23, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

It is not a "simple term" but the proper name of a theory and the theoretical construct that the theory posits. Universal Grammar is not just "a grammar that is universal" and that misconception is exactly why it should be capitalized.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:44, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
"That misconception" can be and should be avoided through good prose. The birds project kerfuffle already laid this out. Also, the name of a theory is not a proper name as it simply illustrates the focus of the theory. Our article on Einstein's theory of relativity seems to agree. Further, from our MOS, Philosophies, theories, movements, doctrines, and systems of thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name derives from a proper name. So, personal preferences aside, the guidance on this is really clear.Primergrey (talk) 18:21, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
Nonsense - the article needs to be at the title that the literature about the topic uses.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:07, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
So this is pretty much you not liking the guidance our MOS clearly lays out. Primergrey (talk) 23:58, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
The literature mostly uses lowercase. See my support comment below. Also its creator Noam Chomsky used lowercase [1]. Dicklyon (talk) 03:18, 22 June 2016 (UTC)

Support the move. MOS guidance specifically states that theories should be downcased and other theory articles reflect this (so it's not a case of the guide being out of step with actual practice). Also, the term was already downcased throughout most of the article before I edited it. Finally, this article was moved to its current title quite recently and in an uncontested move. Primergrey (talk) 12:57, 20 June 2016 (UTC)

@Maunus and Primergrey: Whatever the result, let's please have consistency with Applicative Universal Grammar, Generative grammar, Functional discourse grammar, Systemic functional grammar, etc. — Andy W. (talk ·ctb) 17:43, 21 June 2016 (UTC)
We dont need consistency across articles, only consistency with the sources on each topic.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:47, 21 June 2016 (UTC)
We don't source our style. If we did, we wouldn't have an MOS. An MOS that, incidentally, states that generally, consistency across articles is desirable, and that specifically, names of theories should be lowercase. Primergrey (talk) 23:23, 21 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Support. MOS, Oxford, and Cambridge all say to minimise unnecessary caps. I don't see ambiguities arising from downcasing this item. What's good for "systemic functional grammar" is good for this. Tony (talk) 02:09, 22 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Support the move back to lowercase, per MOS and the evidence in book n-grams, which shows that even with the recent trend toward more caps, it's nowhere near the "consistently capitalized in sources" threshold recommended in MOS:CAPS. Keep in mind that many of the n-grams counts for caps are from the titles, headings, and citations and such in upper case, in the same books that use lowercase showing that it's not a proper noun, such as this book. Dicklyon (talk) 03:18, 22 June 2016 (UTC)
    It's unlikely there is such a trend, really; rather, RS discussion of the hypothesis as such has gone down (because cognitive science and other disciplines have surpassed this 1950s idea), and modern references are usually to the Chomsky work Universal Grammar as a title. Some critics also capitalize the hypothesis in faint mockery, the same way people who don't adhere to them may capitalize "Right to Life" and "Creation Science" to stress that they're matters of faith, not actual science (science is physics and chemistry, not "Physics" and "Chemistry", but the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Birth of Jesus are not the "holy trinity" or the "virgin birth of Jesus").  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:15, 22 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Support move back to lowercase, per MOS:CAPS and WP:NCCAPS, and especially per MOS:DOCTCAPS (in MOS:CAPS) in particular. The rationale "use capital G for Grammar, as used as a proper noun as the name of the theory" is directly countermanded by the guideline. We do not capitalize theories, hypotheses, doctrines, schools of thought, methodological approaches, etc., from the theory of general relativity to Murphy's law to method acting. And "appears capitalised throughout the article" is a fake rationale; all it means is the text needs to comply with MoS as does the title; you can't evade guidelines at point A by defying them at point B then citing the defiance at B as evidence of inapplicability at A. "This is generally capitalized" has no evidence, and actually evidence clearly disproves it [2]; books almost never capitalize this except when a) in a heading or title written in title case, and b) in reference to Chomsky's book, Universal Grammar, the title of which is of course a proper name and conventionally capitalized. But this article is not about that book, it's about the theory, and we do not capitalize the names of theories in linguistics or any other discipline. Nor does any modern off-WP style guide. This decapitalization move is totally, utterly routine and non-controversial, as demonstrated by our thousands of lowercase article titles on laws of nature, scientific hypotheses, methodologies, philosophies, etc., etc., etc. There are still a few capitalized cases left lingering around, like this one, and they need to be lowercased. Capitalizing them turns into a never-ending river of PoV pushing, among other problems.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:08, 22 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Support - the Manual of Style is quite clear; apparently, the reverse move should never have been done. I was following the MOS when I lowercased the references inside the article text. -- Beland (talk) 17:40, 25 June 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.