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Posts Tagged ‘Generative Grammar’

Language Learning - Noam Chomsky

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia on December 7, 1928 and has been a professor of language for many years. He was able to secure a doctorate degree in 1955 from the University of Pennsylvania. It was at that University that he majored in linguistics.

Chomsky was first introduced to the field of language by his Hebrew father who, too, was a scholar of linguistics.

He is also considered to be a political activists, cognitive scientist, philosopher and reputable author of many books. It was around the 1960’s that people began to describe him as a liberal socialist in the political arena.

He has been credited, however, for having a great impact on the linguistic world and the role that he played in putting emphasis on how people learn a new language.

His theory, which is well known as Chomsky’s Hierarchy, divides prescribed grammar into different classes with more power as they increase. His idea of generative grammar and universal grammar was also part of the divisiveness between Chomsky and other linguist.

His work has also influenced other areas of expertise such as immunology, evolutionary psychology, and research of artificial intelligence as well as language translation that is computerized.

Chomsky approached the study of language in a different light than his other counterparts. His universal grammar theory emphasized the primary principle that there is an inner set of linguistic rules that all humans share. This he called the beginning stages of learning a language.

It was Naom Chomsky that identified the fact that generative grammar of any language, when given certain specific rules, will appropriately calculate the words that will combine to form a sentence grammatically. Those same rules when approached correctly will emphasize the morphology of the sentence.

The earlier version of this theory of Chomsky’s generative grammar was transformational grammar. Of course, the generative grammar receives some criticisms from proponents of cognitive grammar and functional theories.


Chomsky felt that the mind had more to do with linguistics than others give it credit. He prefaces this by giving the example of a child when placed in a linguistic environment is able to have an instinctive capability to adapt to the words that are spoken.

Language Learning - Grammar

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

In any language, structural and consistent rules do apply and serves as a governing factor to the arrangement of sentences, words and phrases. There is generative grammar and transformational grammar.

In generative grammar, initiated by Norma Chomsky, is how the study of syntax is approached. It is how a student would calculate what combined words would form a grammatically sentence accurately.

It identifies and analyzes the correct structure of words and phrases. For example, individuals who speak English would know intuitively that the words cat, cats and cat chaser are very directly related. Most aspects of generative grammar indicate that a sentence is either correct or not pursuant to the rules applied in the language.

Transformational grammar is an earlier version of Chomsky’s generative version. It is representative of deep structures and surface structures. Of course, Chomsky has abandoned this idea and embraced generative grammar instead.

However, deep structure focuses more on the meaning of sentences. Chomsky’s theory was that all languages were conducive to deep structures that revealed their properties. The deep structures were usually hidden by the surface structures. The meaning of a sentence was established by its deep structure.

The generative grammar identifies with just the knowledge that motivates the student’s ability to speak the language and to understand it. Chomsky thinks that this knowledge is inherent, which explains why a baby can have previous knowledge about a language structure and only need to learn the language features by listening to the parents and siblings speak that language.

He also suggests that every language has specific essential things in general and the inherent theory became believable and dominated the attitudes that others had toward learning a new language.

Competence and performance were distinct to the grammatical theory structure that Chomsky embraced. It is obvious that individuals learning a new language will make mistakes when it came to how sentences were structured.

This has nothing to do with competence as long as they had the understanding of grammatical sentences.

Different types of grammar progress by the continued use of the language. When expressing language in written form, grammar has many formal rules that the student has to abide by.

Students learn prescriptive grammar in elementary school, which gives them a better idea of the different grammatical rules to apply in a sentence structure. Prescriptive and descriptive grammar are opposite in nature because one is how language is and the other is how language should really be.

Linguistics - Generative Grammar 2

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Generative grammar is a branch of theoretical linguistics developed by Noam Chomsky in the late 1950s. The main idea behind generative grammar is that language is developed according to innate, universal rules which are inborn endowments, not man-made ideas devised at an intellectual level. This explains why children absorb language, including grammar, in a short period of time, with little effort. The principles which enable people to communicate, Chomsky found, are deeply embedded within the brain and are so predictable, they can be quantified mathematically.

According to generative grammar, some linguistic constructs resonate within humans as being grammatically correct while others, in their essence, are ungrammatical. The four major categories in which universal linguistic similarities have been found are phonology (the study of sounds used in a language), morphology (the study of the formation of words), syntax (the study of sentence structure), and semantics (the study of the meaning of words). As it turns out, the linguistic constructs in various languages are, in fact, simply different ways of accomplishing the same things.

Generative grammar is not counterintuitive, given the fact that we all are part of the “family of man”. All the different flavors of humankind have basic linguistic traits in common which are more deeply embedded than the mores and folkways that separate us.

As a study of the underlying principles of human languages, generative grammar consists largely of empirically gathered observations of reality. These principles have been studied since Chomsky first researched them in the 1950s. While the theory has undergone many modifications over the years, its basic premises are widely accepted by the linguistic world as true.

For the language student, this is good news. On the surface, it might seem that some languages bear absolutely no similarity to one another. What do the languages of a !Kung bushman of the Kalahari Desert, a Tibetan Sherpa, a Midwestern American farmer, and a Chinese businesswoman have in common? Not much, we might be tempted to think. However, if these four people were sequestered in a room together, sooner or later, they would find ways to communicate. Furthermore, if they studied each others’ languages, they would ultimately find common ground amongst those languages, despite the obvious differences.

Thus, although the knowledge of generative grammar will not help the language student learn a language in any practical way, it could be a great encouragement to the student who feels like a stranger in a strange land. We people are all, in fact, brothers and sisters, and the fount of our speech rises up from a common wellspring.

Linguistics - Generative Grammar

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Generative grammar is the method of how to effectively study syntax. In any language, this sets the rules of how grammatical sentences are formed using predictable combined words.

The mind has a controlling Language Acquisition device that knows how to engage the rules of generative grammar unconsciously.

Noam Chomsky, in the late 1950s initiated this method of learning any language. According to Chomsky, his theory, Minimalist Program, an offset to other previous versions, suggest that there is an instinctive universal grammar in all of us.

In addition, generative grammar may be more than just a communication aspect of language acquisition, but more of learning from the environment around us. This is what sets it apart from cognitive grammar.

The previous versions of generative grammar, which includes transformational grammar, distinguishes sentences as either being grammatically correct or not. The rules of engagement for a generative sentence concludes that it is either right or it’s not. It does not give place to much error.

The hierarchy of words

Chomsky constructs a hierarchy that explains the difference between what we consider regular grammar and formal grammar. According to him, regular grammar is not a model to the representation of human language because all language should allow for the embedding of a string of words within a string.

An example of this would be the phrase, “The man ate.” We do not know what the man ate, so this is a regular form of grammar. To expand the string from a regular grammar to formal grammar, you would complete the sentence to make it more descriptive by adding, “The man ate his dinner.”

For someone who intuitively knows their own language, generative grammar enables them to understand the scope of the sentence knowing that the man ate something and expressly knowing that it is some type of “food” would be the word or phrase that comes after the sentence, “The man ate.”

At the conception of generative grammar, it created a set of rules that helps an individual who know their natural language to express grammatical words correctly. Chomsky seemed to reject that claim by saying that language acquisition is not a suggestion of the process involved to making it real, but rather an intuitive mindset.


The rules of generative grammar continue to change as different types of methods emerge, but one thing remains the same, which is the mind’s ability to generate its own rules of learning a language.