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Universal Grammar (UG): Noam Chomsky, an influential linguist, proposed the theory that every speaker is born with and knows a set of general principles that are the same for all languages – thus it is known as universal grammar.  When learning another language, learners are able to apply these principles to the new language, as they learn the parameters of the principles in the new language.  For example, a universal principle is that in all languages words have structural relationships; language is not simply a disconnected sequence of words, but words that relate to each other in specific ways to convey meaning.  The language specific parameter of this principle is that syntax varies from language to language and so learners of English learn that in a prepositional phrase the preposition goes at the beginning of the phrase (in the room) while in Japanese, it goes at the end (Japan in). Theorists believe that Universal Grammar makes it possible for children to learn languages more easily before the critical period because after the age of puberty, universal grammar becomes fixed to reflect the grammar of the language(s) have learned in childhood.  

Universal Hypothesis: This states that certain universal linguistic properties determine the order in which the rules of a specific language are acquired. Thus, linguistic rather than cognitive factors determine acquisition.

Unvoiced:  Please see Voiced.


Use: Use is the ways that people actually speak and write to communicate in a language.  In the classroom, use activities are tasks – opportunities for students to engage in authentic communication using English to solve a problem, to get or exchange information not known to the other person, to create something (a poster, a brochure, for example), to reach a group decision or consensus, and/or to discuss a topic.  With regard to classroom activities, the use focused portion of a lesson is distinct from the language-practice focused portion.


Utterance:  An utterance can be a single spoken word, several words spoken together, or a whole spoken sentence.  An utterance can be thought of as a complete unit of speech in spoken language.  In linguistics, the technical definition of utterance is, “any speech sequence consisting of one or more words and generally preceded and followed by a short pause or period of silence”.    For example, “Congratulations!” is a one-word utterance; “Nice weather” is a two-word utterance, and “Without any doubt” is a multi-word utterance.  All these utterances can be used as complete and independent units of spoken language to communicate effectively in particular contexts.  Note that none of the above examples are sentences, although spoken sentences are also utterances.