Universal Grammar

Ian G. Roberts, Jeffrey Watumull, Noam Chomsky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


How universal – in the cosmological sense – is the grammar universal to Homo sapiens sapiens? Hitherto, the answer has been dismissed as too obvious to deserve discussion: “Surely human language is a parochial kluge of our contingent evolution.” However, ongoing advances in generative linguistics, anthronoetic artificial intelligence, and their subsumption in a unified theory of life and information inspire us to question this presumption. Here we defend the conjecture that human universal grammar may be truly universal in the sense that any evolved or designed intelligence – be it terrestrial or extraterrestrial, natural or artificial – would converge on – would conform to – virtual conceptual necessity and computational efficiency. We argue for an Economy Thesis, positing optimal – minimax – Turing universality as an attractor in the phase space of possible computational systems for the design, acquisition, and use of language as a means primarily for complex thought and ancillarily for communication. The true universality of grammar implies the intelligibility to human intelligence of extraterrestrial intelligence (and vice versa); communication between these systems would be a solvable engineering problem. Xenolinguistics is therefore a realistic and imperative research program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationXenolinguistics
Subtitle of host publicationTowards a Science of Extraterrestrial Language
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000920642
ISBN (Print)9781032399591
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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