Scientists discover universal link between all languages

By Kate Hassett

Scientists discover universal link between all languages
Linguistic discovery may give insights into human cognition across time.

There are roughly 6,500 languages spoken across the globe. So far, scientists and historians specialising in linguistics have failed to find a commonality that connects them all.

The ‘language universal’ that researchers at MIT University may have discovered, could shed light on previously unanswered questions about human cognition.

The paper, published in PNAS is focused on explaining languages as “self organised” in a way that shows a focus on keeping similar concepts together in one sentence.

“The idea is that when sentences bundle related concepts in proximity, it puts less of a strain on working memory. For example, adjectives (like “old”) belong with the nouns that they modify (like “lady”), so it’s easier to understand the whole concept of “old lady” if the words appear close together in a sentence.”

This commonality makes it easier for scientists to piece together the overall meaning.

Edward Gibson, the professor of cognitive sciences at MIT and author of the study, stated that this research is independent of a supposed “hardwiring” of sorts.

“This is an argument stating the syntax that is wired into our brain, is easy to use. It tends to be across all languages, and people like to put the words that are combined together – close together. ”

“This is not evidence for the structure of universal grammar, in any direct way, it’s more about ease of use of the linguistic structures that we have.”






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