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1 - A first look at universals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2010

Ricardo Mairal
Affiliation:
Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Juana Gil
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Ricardo Mairal
Affiliation:
Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
Juana Gil
Affiliation:
Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
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Summary

Grammatica una et eadem est secundum substantiam in omnibus linguis, licet accidentaliter varietur.

Roger Bacon

The debate on language universals

Introduction

For the last several decades we have been living in what has been called, for better or for worse, the postmodern era, a cultural movement or climate of social sensitivity, which, in contrast to the traditional values of the rationalistic, globalizing version of Modernism inherited from the Enlightenment, defends ideological positions based on heterogeneity, dispersion, and difference. Over the past years, contingency and individuality have gradually taken precedence over permanence and universality. As Harvey (1989) so accurately states, the views that are presently most highly valued in the postmodern world are generally those that concede greater importance to particularism and fragmentation, focus on the individual nature and interest of the parts rather than the whole, and are ultimately conducive to the disarticulation or deconstruction of all human sociocultural and economic activities. In the same way that moral values and instruction are not thought to be universally applicable, many well-known scholars of this era, even in the realm of science – especially the social sciences (e.g. the work of Lyotard) and, to a lesser extent, physics and mathematics (in line with Spengler) – affirm that there are no general principles that can be objectively evaluated independently of the spatiotemporal context in which they were initially proposed.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • A first look at universals
    • By Ricardo Mairal, Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Juana Gil, Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
  • Edited by Ricardo Mairal, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Juana Gil, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
  • Book: Linguistic Universals
  • Online publication: 08 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618215.002
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  • A first look at universals
    • By Ricardo Mairal, Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Juana Gil, Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
  • Edited by Ricardo Mairal, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Juana Gil, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
  • Book: Linguistic Universals
  • Online publication: 08 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618215.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • A first look at universals
    • By Ricardo Mairal, Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Juana Gil, Senior Lecturer, Department of Modern Languages, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
  • Edited by Ricardo Mairal, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid, Juana Gil, Universidad National de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
  • Book: Linguistic Universals
  • Online publication: 08 January 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618215.002
Available formats
×