MIT scientists discover “language universal” that ties all languages together

NEW YORK, Aug 13, 2015 (BE2C2) — Of the roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world, not one commonality has been found connecting them all together — until now.

So, what’s “universal” between good boy in English and Acchha larka in Urdu or Hindi?

Researchers at MIT have found what they’re calling a “language universal,” which focuses on sentence structure as a link among languages.

This could help us further understand the human brain, says the study.


The most famous proponent of the idea of language universals has been Noam Chomsky, who suggested a “universal grammar” exists that underlies all languages.

Finding a property that occurs in every single language would suggest that some element of language is genetically predetermined and perhaps that there is specific brain architecture dedicated to language, the MIT research paper claims.

The professors state that all languages self-organise in a particular way that sees related concepts stay as close as possible to each other within a sentence. An example of this would be the fact that an adjective needs to be kept in close proximity to the noun which it is altering. For instance, ‘old lady’ needs the adjective ‘old’ kept close its noun ‘lady’ so it’s easier for those listening to understand the concept that the lady is old.

Good boy in Urdu or Hindi means  Acchha larka. Here adjective precedes close to the noun.

Edward Gibson, a professor of cognitive sciences at MIT and an author of the study, appeared on HuffPost Live to discuss his findings on “language universals” — a trait or property of language that exists, or has the potential to exist,in all languages.

Watch Gibson explain how the ‘”language universal” might connect all the world’s tongues in the video above.


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