Two traditions devoted to the formulation and explanation of syntactic universals coexist in the field of linguistics. The surface universals tradition draws inductive generalizations pertaining to easily observable surface features in the world's languages. By and large it seeks to account for the universals that it uncovers by means of external, typically function-based, explanations. The deep universals tradition is part-and-parcel of most approaches to generative grammar. The central constructs of that theory, including the set of categories posited and the form of the principles at work, are ipso facto ‘deep universals’ provided by an innate Universal Grammar. Many generative grammarians take the position that deep universals are central to the explanation of surface universals, though there is good reason to be skeptical of such an idea. While most linguists would welcome a rapprochement between the two approaches to universals, a number of conceptual and empirical barriers stand in the way of its realization.
©Walter de Gruyter