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Differences between Universal Grammar and Linguistic


The following essay will provide the main differences between two
famous theories; the Universal Grammar Theory vs. the Linguistic
Relativity Theory. This paper focusses on the particular aspects of the
two theories, in order to point out and establish the aim of each theory,
analyzing and showing how opposite both theories are and how both
theories influences the in which speakers see the world and make sense
of it.
According to Chomsky (1965) "Universal Grammar is a set of general
principles available in particular linguistic grammars". In this case many
experts suggest that "Universal Grammar is the set of linguistic
principles and we are endowed with at birth in virtue of being human"
(Smith 1999: 42), which is to say that basically, humans are born with
the ability to speak any kind of language in the world. However, it does
not mean that we were born with knowledge referring to language
acquisition, but with the general principles that all languages possess.
Innate knowledge allows us to select a specific language. For instance,
one principle proposed by the theory of universal grammar is the default
parameter which refers to the natural ability we have, we actually were
born with a language parameter and that minimal sample input will
allow us to know how to set the parameters for our own language. This
theory is inversely related to the theory of Linguistic relativity from SapirWhorf.
According to Sapir 'The fact of the matter is that the real world is to a
large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.
He also highlighted that language is structurally unique; it means that
every language has a different structure based on their ethnical and
cultural factors. The theory of linguistic relativity among others describe
that every language in the world has a different structure in the state to
adjust well to the culture of the society itself. For example, for humans to
acquire a specific language they should know the elements and
structure which compose the language to communicate, the differences
in the structure of the languages will be reflected in cognitive differences
in the speaker for whom these languages are native. Whorf and Sapir
also hypothesized that the structure of anyones native language will
fully determine the world view of that specific person. Here we can
noticed how different and opposite these both; the Universal Grammar
and the Linguistic Relativity theories are.
As a conclusion, from the explanations already exposed, we can say that
both theories aim to explain how we acquire language. It would be

difficult to find which theory is the most certain, due to the fact that both
languages aim to explain the same thing from a different point of view,
which is respectable and valuable.
Ingelore Heitmann
Analysis and Discourse
Miss Silvia Velazquez