The “subject-drop” parameter supposedly also determined other structural features of the language. This notion of universal principles fits many European languages reasonably well. But data from non-European languages turned out not to fit the revised version of Chomsky’s theory. Indeed, the research that had attempted to identify parameters, such as the subject-drop, ultimately led to the abandonment of the second incarnation of universal grammar because of its failure to stand up to scrutiny.

More recently, in a famous paper published in Science in 2002, Chomsky and his co-authors described a universal grammar that included only one feature, called computational recursion (although many advocates of universal grammar still prefer to assume there are many universal principles and parameters). This new shift permitted a limited number of words and rules to be combined to make an unlimited number of sentences.