The University of Sussex

Government-binding and language typology

John Cole

In this paper I intend to look at some of the language universals proposed by the Government and Binding (GB) theory developed by Chomsky (1981, 1982, 1986) and his co-workers as an extension of transformational generative grammar. The approach of the theory to language universals is based on the axiom that formal syntax is somehow innate in a human being and that therefore investigation of one language in depth will reveal language universals since the roots of the syntax of that language grow from a universal biological template. I would like to point out at the outset that should this axiom be false (and indeed evidence for it is not strong) then the methodology of the formalist approach is unlikely to develop any more than an excellent description of a few languages.


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