Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Ropar

HSS Seminar

Revisiting Universalism via Phonological Mind


Dr. R. Lalitha Raja

October  12, 2017 (Thursday) at 10:00 AM

Venue:  Lecture Hall-9


In his Universal Grammar (UG) hypothesis, Chomsky puts the idea that human languages, though seem to be diverse superficially, they share some fundamental similarities, and that these are accountable to innate principles unique to language (Chomsky, 2000). However, this Universalism has a long-standing debate with a question about its  existence among languages till date. For almost 50 years this has been a central and important approach in linguistics, which has an increasing criticism from a variety of sources till date. As a researcher in the field of child language of acquisition, I often had a curiosity to find evidence that can critic universalism. In this talk, I would like to provide a critical assessment of the UG approach using the concept of phonological mind. The idea of phonological mind has

been proposed by Iris Berent (2013) looks into the phonological universals in terms of  typological evidence, sonority, and phonological acquisition and proposes that human mind is  equipped with core phonological knowledge – a system specialized for the computation of phonological structure. Though Chomskyan Universalism is much concerned about syntax; from Distinctive feature theory (which proposes that universal set of features) to Optimality theory (that proposes the universals in constraints), the phonological analysis also tries to look into the existence of the universal components in phonology. The history of research on phonological acquisition and processing also shares the universal patterns. My talk tries to put forward the concept of Universalism via the concept of phonological acquisition and  processing I have noticed in my research. The present talk discusses the feature commonness found in Ancient Indian traditional grammars (Tamil and Sanskrit) compared with the later development of distinctive feature theory and universal phonemes, features, and constraints  found in phonological  acquisition and processes.


Brief Bio-sketch of the speaker

Dr. R. Lalitha Raja is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Annamalai University and adjunct faculty of Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at SRM University, Chennai, and Manipal University. She teaches psycho-linguistics, clinical-linguistics and audiology and speech-language pathology. Her doctoral research was on ‘Syntactic Development of Tamil Mother Tongue Children in Learning English.’ Currently, she is a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.  In addition to these, she is a psychologist and RCI registered special educator, working with children with dyslexia, mental retardation, autism and hearing impairment by using clinical linguistics.