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General linguistics must be based on universals (or nonconventional aspects of language)

Haspelmath, Martin;
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Abstract
This paper highlights the importance of the distinction between general linguistics (the study of Human Language) and particular linguistics (the study of individual languages), which is often neglected. The term “theoretical linguistics” is often used as if it entailed general claims. But I note that (unless one studies nonconventional aspects of language, e.g. reaction times as in psycholinguistics), one must study universals if one wants to make general claims. These universals can be of the Greenbergian type, based on grammatical descriptions of the speaker’s social conventions, or they can be based on the natural-kinds programme, where lin...
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