Syntax

Transformational generative grammar

Transformational generative grammar 

 

Transformational grammar is an expression that designates the genre of generative grammar that uses transformational rules or other mechanisms to represent the displacement of constituents and other natural language phenomena. In particular, the term designates practically only those theories that have been developed in the Chomskian tradition. This term is usually homonym of the more concrete Transformational Generative Grammar.

Generation of grammar sentences

A generative grammar, in the sense that Noam Chomsky uses the term, is a formalized system of rules with mathematical precision that, without requiring information foreign to the system, produces the grammatical sentences of the language it describes or characterizes and assigns to each sentence a structural description or grammatical analysis. Each and every one of the concepts disclosed in this definition of “generative” grammar will be explained and exemplified in this section. Generative grammars are of 2 types: this article deals eminently with the type known as transformational generative grammar (or simply transformational). The transformational grammar was initiated by Zellig S. Harris in the development of a work on what he called allegation analysis (the formal analysis of the structure of the progressive text). It was perfected by Chomsky, who gave him, in addition to this, a different theoretical basis.

Harris grammar

Harris distinguished in the set of grammatical sentences of a given language 2 complementary subsets: nuclear sentences (kernel sentences) and non-nuclear sentences (nonkernel sentences).

Chomskian grammar

Chomsky’s system of transformational grammar, although developed with the foundations of Harris’s work, differs from this in many respects.

Deep structure and surface structure

During the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century, Noam Chomsky developed the term that each sentence has 2 different levels of representation: a Deep Structure and a Superficial Structure. The deep structure was a direct representation of the semantic information of the sentence, and was associated with the superficial structure (the one that tends to reproduce the phonological way of the sentence) through transformations. There is a widespread misunderstanding according to which the deep structure was supposed to be identical in each and every natural language (to create Universal Grammar), however, that was not exactly what Chomsky suggested. Chomsky believed that there should be remarkable similarities between the deep structure of different languages, and that these structures would reveal properties common to each and every one of the languages ​​that were hidden under the surface structure. It is controversial that the motivation to introduce the transformations was simply to make more (mathematically) powerful grammars, instead of explaining the origin of the syntactic alterations between languages. While, for Chomsky, the ability of a grammatical theory at the time to generalize in its analysis of different languages ​​is essential, certain key works at the beginning of transformational Grammar (for example, the work of Chomsky Aspects of the Theory of Syntax nineteen sixty-five) emphasize the role that transformations play in achieving the precise level of mathematical power in the syntactic component of a grammar, which, in its understanding, structuralist grammars, popular at that time, did not offer. Chomsky also highlights the relevance of the devices provided by modern formal mathematics for the development of a grammatical theory.

Basic concepts

Although the transformations continue to be essential for the current theories protected by Chomsky, it no longer defends the original idea of ​​deep and superficial structures. Initially, 2 auxiliary levels of representation were introduced: the Logical Form (LF) and the Phonetic Form (PF); later, in the 1990s, Chomsky presented a new study program known as minimalism, in which the Deep Structure and the Surface Structure no longer fit, while PF and LF continued as the only levels of representation.

Another factor that makes it even more complicated to understand the development of Chomsky’s theories is the fact that the meaning of Deep Structure and Superficial Structure has varied over time. Throughout the 1970s, the two were simply referred to as D-Structure and S-structure. The meaning of D-structure gradually distanced itself more from the initial one given to the Deep Structure throughout the 1960s. Specifically, the idea that the meaning of a sentence depended on the Deep Structure ceased to make sense when LF took its place. In this regard, it is advisable to refer to Chomsky’s texts in his youth.

Innate linguistic knowledge

Terms such as “transformation” can give the impression that theories of transformational generative grammar are understood as a model of the processes through which the human psyche builds and understands sentences. Chomsky believes that this is not the case: generative grammar models only the knowledge that underlies the human ability to chat and understand. One of the main Chomskian ideas is that the majority of such knowledge is innate and that each and every language is composed from a series of principles, which only change in certain factors (and logically, the lexicon). Therefore, a baby can have a huge expectation about the structure of language generally, and only needs to infer the values ​​of certain factors for the language (s) he is learning. Chomsky was not the first to suggest that each and every language share certain aspects; he quotes thinkers who had postulated exactly the same ideas multiple centuries ago (for example: Plato, Descartes or Humboldt), ideas that had not yet been integrated into a scientific project. Chomsky elaborated a scientific theory of the innate, in response to the dominant model from then (behaviorism). Additionally, he designed a set of fairly complex technical proposals in relation to the structure of language and, in addition to this, made essential criteria on how the quality of a Grammar Theory should be evaluated. he quotes thinkers who had postulated exactly the same ideas multiple centuries ago (for example: Plato, Descartes or Humboldt), ideas that had not yet been integrated into a scientific project. Chomsky elaborated a scientific theory of the innate, in response to the dominant model from then (behaviorism). Additionally, he designed a set of fairly complex technical proposals in relation to the structure of language and, in addition to this, made essential criteria on how the quality of a Grammar Theory should be evaluated. he quotes thinkers who had postulated exactly the same ideas multiple centuries ago (for example: Plato, Descartes or Humboldt), ideas that had not yet been integrated into a scientific project. Chomsky elaborated a scientific theory of the innate, in response to the dominant model from then (behaviorism). Additionally, he designed a set of fairly complex technical proposals in relation to the structure of language and, in addition to this, made essential criteria on how the quality of a Grammar Theory should be evaluated.

Chomsky even claims that babies do not need to learn constructions that are specific to each language. And the reason for this assertion is that each and every language seems to continue exactly the same pattern of rules, which is known as Universal Grammar. But the effect of these rules and the interaction between them can change greatly depending on the values ​​of certain universal linguistic factors (use of language). This definitive premise is one of the levels in which Transformational Grammar differs from most schools.

Grammatical theories

During the sixties, Chomsky introduced 2 central ideas for the construction and evaluation of grammatical theories. The first was the distinction between competence and linguistic performance. Chomsky refers to the patent that people, when we talk in routine life, often make mistakes (for example, start a sentence and leave it halfway). These failures in linguistic employment are inconsequential for the study of linguistic competence, since competence is the knowledge that allows humans to build and understand sentences.

The second idea that Chomsky introduced was in relation to the evaluation of grammatical theories. Chomsky distinguishes between those that achieve a graphic adaptation and those that go further there and achieve an explanatory adaptation. The graphs define the (infinite) set of grammatical sentences in a language in particular, while a grammar that achieves an explanatory adaptation penetrates the universal properties of the language that results from the innate linguistic structures found in the human psyche. Consequently, if a grammar has an explanatory adequacy, it must be able to explain the nuances of different languages ​​as partially small alterations of the universal patterns of language. Chomsky claimed that, Although linguists are still quite far from achieving grammar of graphic adequacy, to improve in such grammatical description it is essential to mark the explanatory adequacy as a goal. In other words, the real nuances of individual languages ​​can be known only through the equated study of a large number of languages.

«I-language» and «E-language»

In the nineteen eighties, Chomsky proposed to distinguish between I-Language and And also-Language. Affine distinction, but not identical to the competence and use of the language. The I-language in reference to the internal language, is the object of study of the syntactic theory, is the mental representation of the linguistic knowledge that a native speaker of a language has, and is, therefore, a mental aspect. From this perspective, virtually all linguistics would be a branch of Psychology. Y-Language also refers to many other notions of what language is, for example: language as an entity of knowledge or behavioral habits shared by a community. Chomsky states that such notions of what language is are not useful for the study of innate knowledge of language, such as competence. Still being able to be prudent, intuitive and useful in other areas of study. Competition can only be studied if language is treated as a mental object.

Grammaticality

Chomsky contradicted the hegemonic criteria throughout the twentieth century insinuating that grammatical and non-grammatical notions could be usefully defined and endowed with meaning. A radical behavioral linguist would claim that language can be studied only with recordings or transcripts of real conversations. The role of the linguist would focus on the search for aspects through the analysis of said talk, but he should not raise hypotheses about the reason for the existence of such aspects, nor should he label such expressions as “grammatical” or “non-grammatical” . Chomsky maintains that the intuition of a native speaker is enough to limit the grammaticality of a sentence. This is, that if a native Spanish speaker finds it difficult or impossible to understand a particular sequence of words in Spanish, can it be said that this sequence of words is non-grammatical. [1]? This term freed many linguists from studying the language through speech corpus, while now it was feasible to study through ideal sentences. Without this change in the philosophy of linguistic study, the construction of generative grammars would have been virtually impossible, while it is often the dark and strangely used aspects of a language that give key information to determine its structure, and such examples are really difficult to locate in the routine use of the language. [one]? This term freed many linguists from studying the language through speech corpus, while now it was feasible to study through ideal sentences. Without this change in the philosophy of linguistic study, the construction of generative grammars would have been virtually impossible, while it is often the dark and strangely used aspects of a language that give key information to determine its structure, and such examples are really difficult to locate in the routine use of the language. [one]? This term freed many linguists from studying the language through speech corpus, while now it was feasible to study through ideal sentences. Without this change in the philosophy of linguistic study, the construction of generative grammars would have been virtually impossible, while it is often the dark and strangely used aspects of a language that give key information to determine its structure, and such examples are really difficult to locate in the routine use of the language.

The minimalist program is not related to the minimalist cultural and artistic movement.

A significant part of the current study of transformational grammar is inspired by Chomsky’s minimalist program, described in his book The Minimalist Program (nineteen ninety-five). The new direction of the study involves the economics of derivation and the economics of representation that began to be significant in the nineteen nineties, but it was still a fairly peripheral aspect of the theory of Transformational Generative Grammar. The economics of derivation is a principle that asserts that transformations only occur when they are completely accurate to relate interpretative traits to non-interpretive traits. A case of an interpretive feature is the inflection in the regular names in Spanish to build the plural. Dogs. The word dogs can only be used to refer to multiple dogs, never in reference to a single canid. Thus the inflection contributes to the meaning of the word making it interpretive. When the information that appears in the verbal inflection repeats information that has been said by the subject, then that information is considered non-interpretive. The economics of representation is the principle that asserts that grammatical structures must have a reason why they are used and exist. To use an example, the structure of a sentence should not be more extensive or more complex than what is required to cover grammar needs (this principle does not apply in each and every case). The description of the two concepts made in the article is quite vague, in truth,

An auxiliary aspect of minimalist thinking is the idea that the derivation of syntactic structures should be uniform, which means that the syntactic rules should not be applied arbitrarily in a derivative process. For this reason, deep structure and surface structure are not referents in the minimalist study of syntactic theory.

Mathematical representation

In relation to the mathematical study of grammar, a significant feature of transformational grammars is that they are more powerful than context-free grammars. This idea was formulated by Noam Chomsky in the Chomsky Hierarchy. Nowadays, there seems to be agreement in asserting that it is impossible to achieve the description of natural languages ​​through the use of context-free grammars, (at least, if this description is based on Chomskian criteria).

Transformations

Some rules of Transformational Generative Grammar are quite easy, similar as:

Most languages ​​tend to favor these structures, although there are caveats. The Japanese is a language that tends to put the syntactic nucleus at the end of the phrase, while English is a language that generally places the nucleus at the beginning of the phrase. Few languages ​​continue the structural example of the Japanese.

While Chomsky and many other linguists have neglected many aspects of Transformational Generative Grammar, this theory is still applied in syntactic analysis and in the study of language acquisition throughout childhood.

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