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CoEDL Seminar: Universals of Language 3.0, Nikolaus Himmelmann, 10 Mar

Australian National University

Date: 28 February 2017

Please note: This seminar was recorded and is available by clicking on the iTunesU button at the top right hand corner of this page.

Seminar: Universals of Language 3.0

Speaker: Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, Universität zu Köln

When: Friday 10 March 2017, 3.30pm-5pm

Where: Engma Room (5019), HC Coombs Building ANU


The last decade has seen a lot of questioning the validity and usefulness of presumed language universals of the Greenbergian and Chomskyan type, Evans & Levinson’s (2009) The myth of language universals perhaps being the most prominent example. This talk takes stock as to where this leaves us with regard to language universals research, pointing out some unwarranted exaggerations and ill-conceived distinctions. The hypothesis is proposed that there are universals levels (or aspects) of linguistic structure that are directly derivative of the biological and communicative infrastructure for communication. Recognizing such levels allows one to avoid some of the confusions characterizing the current debate. Examples mostly come from prosody (syllable and intonational phrase), but also Dingemanse et al.’s proposal of “universal words” is being discussed.

This will be followed by refreshments.


  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University