Divergence of languages observed at the surface level is a major challenge encountered by multilingual data representation, especially when typologically distant languages are involved. Drawing inspirations from a formalist Chomskyan perspective towards language universals, Universal Grammar (UG), this article employs deductively pre-defined universals to analyse a multilingually heterogeneous phenomenon, event nominals. In this way, deeper universality of event nominals beneath their huge divergence in different languages is uncovered, which empowers us to break barriers between languages and thus extend insights from some synthetic languages to a non-inflectional language, Mandarin Chinese. Our empirical investigation also demonstrates this UG-inspired schema is effective: with its assistance, the inter-annotator agreement (IAA) for identifying event nominals in Mandarin grows from 88.02% to 94.99%, and automatic detection of event-reading nominalizations on the newly-established data achieves an accuracy of 94.76% and an F1 score of 91.3%, which are significantly surpass those achieved on the pre-existing resource by 9.8% and 5.2% respectively. Our systematic analysis also sheds light on nominal semantic role labelling (SRL). By providing a clear definition and classification on arguments of event nominal, the IAA of this task significantly increases from 90.46% to 98.04%.

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Author notes

Action editor: Xuanjing Huang

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Email: ws390@cam.ac.uk

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