Arguments for and against the Idea of Universal Grammar

  • Christian Hejlesen Christensen Aarhus University
Keywords: generative grammar, the innateness hypothesis, English syntax, child language acquisition, Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, Universal Grammar, Current Topics in English Linguistics


For many, language is viewed as something that is actively learned through sensory stimulus and training. However, the idea of Universal Grammar (UG) challenges this notion by pointing at the inconsistencies in the behaviorist model of language learning. Proponents of Universal Grammar argue that language is acquired rather than learned, meaning that linguistic structures are a biologically innate part of the human mind. This paper explores arguments on both sides of the issue, beginning with the classical behaviorist model and then turning to two selected arguments for UG before finally discussing the theory in light of more recent criticisms. In the end, I conclude that while Universal Grammar is still controversial in the field of linguistics, it at the very least succeeds in showing that there are still unanswered questions regarding the way the human mind acquires language.

How to Cite
Christensen, C. (2019). Arguments for and against the Idea of Universal Grammar. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (4), 12-28.