On the universals of language and rights

Noam Chomsky in the Boston Review:

Thirty-five years ago I agreed, in a weak moment, to give a talk with the title “Language and Freedom.” When the time came to think about it, I realized that I might have something to say about language and about freedom, but the word “and” was posing a serious problem. There is a possible strand that connects language and freedom, and there is an interesting history of speculation about it, but in substance it is pretty thin. The same problem extends to my topic here, “universality in language and human rights.” There are useful things to say about universality in language and about universality in human rights, but that troublesome connective raises difficulties.

The only way to proceed, as far as I can see, is to say a few words about universality in language, and in human rights, with barely a hint about the possible connections, a problem still very much on the horizon of inquiry.

More here.