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What is the difference between the Generativists and Structuralist? In what way have the Generative insights into language contributed to linguistic theory?

 Syntax in Generative Grammar: The hypothesis of generative grammar is that language is a structure of the human mind. The goal of generative grammar is to make a complete model of this inner language (known as i-language). This model could be used to describe all human language and to predict the grammaticality of any given utterance (that is, to predict whether the utterance would sound correct to native speakers of the language). This approach to language was pioneered by Noam Chomsky. Most generative theories (although not all of them) assume that syntax is based upon the constituent structure of sentences. Generative grammars are among the theories that focus primarily on the form of a sentence, rather than its communicative function. Among the many generative theories of linguistics, the Chomskyian theories are:

Transformational Grammar (TG) (Original theory of generative syntax laid out by Chomsky in Syntactic Structures in 1957.

(a) Government and binding theory (GB) (revised theory in the tradition of TG developed mainly by Chomsky in the 1970s and 1980s).

(b) The Minimalist Programme (MP) (revised version of GB published by Chomsky in 1995)

Background: Syntax and Structural Linguistics: During mid 1950s there was special emphasis on the significance on the study of syntax. Before mid 1980s- structuralism spreads items wing in the field of grammar. According to structuralism purely human phenomenon such as language, literature and culture are structured system. With this broader perspective of looking such phenomenon and structured system, structural linguistic came in to existence. It was Ferdinand de Saussure who introduced this approach towards linguistics. This further taken ahead by linguist in America, though independently like Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield. In Europe it was popularised by Prague school linguists like Nikolay Sergeyevitch, Trubetzkoy and Roman Jackobson. Further Claude Levi-Strauss applied this approach in anthropology.

Zelling Harris in 1955 suggested there exists some semantic and non-mechanical relationship between the sentences taken ahead and elaborated by Noam Chomsky– a student of Harris. Chomsky thus introduced a new approach which is known as generativist approach towards language or generative grammar. Chomsky advocated for the need of universal grammar, which considered additional language features of different languages. The study of sentence structure could be helpful in understanding the organization of thoughts in human brain. Thus syntax plays an important role in generative grammar.

What is Generative Grammar? Generative is the key term here and one of the two significant features of tranformational generative grammar and which means the potential to ‘generate’ sentences. In the words of N. Krishnaswamy: “We acquire information about a language and using that knowledge about language, we create or generate sentences. In this sense the grammar is generative. The grammar of a language is not just an analytical procedure, it should generate description of all the grammatical sentences in the language only.”

The Generative grammar is concerned with the possible set of sentences. ‘Whenever we select any text or corpus of a language for analysis, what we have is the actual manifest sentences which are finite. It would be a mistake to consider these as the limit, for there is always possiblity of having more sentences or forms. When we say that a grammar can produce infinite number of sentences, we do not mean its rules are infinite. On the other hand, the grammar is finite, its rules are finite, but they can produce infinite number of sentences.’

Owen Thomas says: “Generative grammar is one that contains a list of symbols, including, for example, English words, and a list of rules for combining these symbols in various ways to produce every English sentence. Such a grammar is said to ‘generate’ or to ‘enumerate’ all the possible sentences in a language .... all speakers have some method of understanding completely novel sentences never spoken before, which means that they must have a way of determining all the infinite number of sentences. In other words, rules that generate or determine are actually generalisations about language which permit a native speaker, among other things to evaluate the grammatically of any novel sentence.”

Phrase Structure Rules in Early Transformational Grammar

Chomsky in 1957, proposed the first kind of generative grammar which is popularly known as transformational (generative) grammar. There were two basic rules which were proposed in this grammar. These rules were: (i) phrase structure rules and (ii) transformational rules, which are also simply known as transformations. The basic phrase structure tree is constructed on the basis of phrase structure rules. Followings are the phrase structure rules which help in the construction of a phrase structure tree:

(a) S ------- NP Pred-P

(b) NP------Det N

(c) Pred-P -----Aux

(d) VP -------V PP

(e) PP ---------- P NP

After going through this rule the specific morpheme or words, lexical insertion rules come to fore, by the virtue of which these morphemes are inserted into the terminal nodes. The lexical insertion rules are:

(a) Det ----- this

(b) Det -----that

(c) N ------ boy

(d) N ------ girl

(e) V -------run

(f) P -------- to.

These rules are either called the phrase structure rules or the ‘re-write rules.

From Phrase Structure to X-bar Theory: X-bar theory is a component of linguistic theory which attempts to identify syntactic features presumably common to all those human languages that fit in presupposed (1965) framework. It claims that among their phrasal categories, all those languages share certain structural similarities, including one known as the “X-bar”, which does not appear in traditional, for inter alia natural English language, phrase structure rules. X-bar theory was first proposed by Chomsky (1970) and further developed by Jackendoff (1977).

The letter X is used to signify an arbitrary lexical category; when analysing a specific utterance, specific categories are assigned. Thus, the X may become an N for noun, a V for verb, an A for adjective or a P for preposition.

The term X-bar is derived from the notation representing this new structure. Certain structures are represented by X (an X with an over bar). Because this is difficult to typeset, this is often written as X′, using the prime symbol. In English, however, this is still read as “X bar”. The notation XP stands for X phrase and is equivalent to X-bar-bar (X with a double over bar), written X′ , usually read aloud as X double bar.

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