transformational grammar

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transformational grammar


Transformational Grammar


(1) A variant of generative grammar, which is an explicit description of a large number of grammatically correct sentences of a language that makes it possible to identify sentences which are correct in the given language. Transformational grammar is distinct from other types of generative grammar in that it distinguishes between the deep structure of a sentence, which determines the sentence’s semantic interpretation, and the surface structure, which determines the sentence’s phonetic character. In transformational grammar, syntax has two components: the base component, or phrase structure component, which consists of rules governing the deep structures of a language, and the transformation component, which converts deep structures into corresponding surface structures.

(2) A linguistic theory also known as transformational-generative grammar. It arose in the 1950’s and considers the most important task of descriptive linguistics to be the construction of a transformational grammar. The theory was founded by the American linguist N. Chomsky; other adherents have included R. Lees, C. Fillmore, E. Klima, E. Bach, J. Katz, J. Fodor, M. Bierwisch, and R. Rüzicka.

In the late 1960’s the concept of deep structure was reexamined owing to a growing need to relate syntactic description with meaning. Transformational-generative grammar divided into two schools. The first school, headed by R. Jackendoff and R. Dougherty, was that of interpretive semantics. It retained the concept of deep structure but permitted rules of semantic interpretation that use information other than the information contained in the deep structure. The second school, that of generative semantics, rejected the concept of deep structure and developed rules for generating the sentences of a language directly from their semantic representations. The main representatives of this school are G. Lakoff, J. McCawley, J. Ross, and P. Postal.