Transformational grammar


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Language Principles

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Transformational grammar

  1. 1. Transformational Grammar p.33 - p.43 Jack October 30th, 2012
  2. 2. Table of Contents• Language and Grammar• Deep and Surface structure• Transformational Rules• Issues in Grammatical Theory• The Centrality of Syntax• Is Language Innate?
  3. 3. Language and Grammar• From a linguistic perspective, a grammar is a description of a person’s linguistic knowledge.
  4. 4. Language and Grammar• Definition of Language : – A language can be defined as an infinite set of well-formed sentences.• Grammar: – A formal device with a finite set of rules that generates the sentences in the language.
  5. 5. Language and Grammar• Evaluation of Grammars: – Chomsky (1972) has suggested three criteria: • First, observational adequacy • Second, descriptive adequacy • Third, explanatory adequacy
  6. 6. Deep and Surface structure• Deep structure: – the underlying structure of a sentence that conveys the meaning of a sentence• Surface structure: – the superficial arrangement of constituents and reflects the order in which the words are pronounced
  7. 7. Deep and Surface structure• Three arguments for usefulness of distinction: – First, deep-structure ambiguity – Second, underlying structure – Third, active vs. passive
  8. 8. Transformational Rules• Transformational rules (transformations): – applied to the deep structure and the intermediate structures, ultimately generating the surface structure of the sentence
  9. 9. Transformational Rules• Examples: – First, particle-movement transformation • blocked with pronoun – Second, passive transformation
  10. 10. Issues in Grammatical Theory• Psychological Reality of Grammar – Belief: • Structure and rules of transformational grammar were psychologically real. – Assumption: • Surface structure was the starting point for comprehension and the deep structure was the ending point.
  11. 11. Issues in Grammatical Theory• Derivational Theory of Complexity (DTC): – The distance between surface and deep structure would be an accurate index of the psychological complexity.
  12. 12. Issues in Grammatical Theory• Early studies: – Negative were more difficult to comprehend.• Later Studies: – Affirmative were more difficult to comprehend.* No intuition and experiment has revealed the relationship of possessing difficulty, so some assumptions guiding DTC are faulty.
  13. 13. Issues in Grammatical Theory• Recent grammatical theory: – Using the leaving trace of passive voice – Proved that passive voice are more difficult or slow to understand comparing to active sentence. – Zurif and Swinney (1994) suggest that traces have psychological reality.
  14. 14. The Centrality of Syntax• Chomsky (1995) – syntactic structure is the heart of our linguistic knowledge. It’s controversial.
  15. 15. The Centrality of Syntax• Two alternative approaches: – Bresnan (1978) • lexical functional grammar/psychologically realistic grammar • Greater emphasis on individual lexical items • Storing syntactic information in the lexical entry simplifies the process of comprehending sentences.
  16. 16. The Centrality of Syntax• Two alternative approaches: – Jackendoff (2002) • Grammars have multiple sets of function rules and a complete account of grammar requires attention to the interfaces between different systems. • These systems operates in parallel. • It might be easier to understand the evolution of language.
  17. 17. Evolution of Language• The relationship between grammar and evolution: – Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch (2002): • FLB (faculty of language in the broad sense) – memory – cognitive skills – intentional behaviors between humans • FLN (faculty of language in the narrow sense) – the capacity of recursion – mapping meanings onto sound
  18. 18. Evolution of Language• Criticize: – Pinker and Jackendoff (2005): • There are many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as morphology.
  19. 19. Is Language Innate?• Nativists assert that children are born with some linguistic knowledge. Are there any evidence?
  20. 20. Is Language Innate?• Evidence: – Without presenting consistent linguistic model, they have the capacity to invent some aspects of language. – Deaf children invented hands gestures that are similar to ASL (American Sign Language)
  21. 21. Is Language Innate?• Parameter: – a grammatical feature that can be set to any of several values. • example: null-subject parameter » English is a subject language » Italian is a null subject language
  22. 22. Is Language Innate?• Parameter-setting theorists – Chomsky (1981) ; Hyams (1986) • Children are born with parameters and values. • the importance of experience • shows a tidy solution of how innate processes interact with a child’s language experience.