The functional approach to typology often appeals to processing pressures in order to explain universals. This paper examines a case where the match between a processing asymmetry and a typological asymmetry is not one-to-one — a case where the functional approach appears to fail. For a particular typology of relative clauses, the psycholinguistic literature suggests two asymmetries: accessibility and parallel function. Only the former shows up as an implicational universal. I argue that the innate language acquisition device imposes a constraint on the adaptability of language. This means that a language that had evolved through a process of linguistic selection to respond to parallel function could not in fact be acquired or represented. In this view all mismatches between processing and cross-linguistic asymmetries are the expected outcome of meta-constraints on cross-linguistic universals. 2 The functional approach to language typology (see, e.g. Croft 1990) often highlights the fit of universals to language processing. 1 My use of the term “fit ” here is parallel to tha
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