Michael Dunn and colleagues just published a paper in Nature that systematically challenges the theory of universal grammar long propounded by Noam Chomsky and his acolytes. This is the theory that says we all learn language effortless as children because we have a built-in “language organ”, a set of instructions that Pinker dubbed “the language instinct”.
The paper by Dunn et al., “Evolved structure of language shows lineage-specific trends in word-order universals”, was summarized in this piece in Wired.
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The research involved the analysis of four widely separated language families, one of which is the Uto-Aztecan of North and Central America. The Monks are pleased to note that they span the full extent of that family's geographical range, from Shoshoni in the north (Idaho) all the way to Nawat (also known as Pipil) in the south (El Salvador). In the middle they also have: Western Mono (California), Hopi (Arizona), Classical Nahuatl (México) and the contemporary Nahuatl of Huasteca (México). They look forward, as always, to adding further representatives of the Uto-Aztecan family!