generative grammar
The theory of language structures first proposed in Chomsky's Syntactic Structures (1957). Just as physics studies the forms of physically possible processes, so linguistics should study the form of possible human languages. This would define the limits of language by delimiting the kinds of processes that can occur in language from those that cannot. The result would be a universal grammar, from which individual languages would derive as, in effect, different ways of doing the same thing. Variations such as vocabulary and principles governing word order would be revealed as different applications of the same underlying rules. Tacit knowledge of this universal grammar is pre-programmed, an innate biological endowment of normal human infants. The argument with which Chomsky supported the claim for such an endowment is known as the argument from the ‘poverty of stimulus’: it is argued that language-learning proceeds so fast in response to such a relatively slender body of ‘data’ that the infant must be credited with an innate propensity to follow the grammar of everybody else. The extent to which this argument treats the infant as a theorist or ‘little linguist’ has been much debated (see also language of thought hypothesis ). In Chomsky's original model, language consists of phrase structure rules and transformations. Phrase structure rules represent the grammatically basic constituent parts of the sentence (e.g. a sentence might be a noun phrase + a verb phrase). Transformation rules change relations (as in the active/passive transformation) and determine how complex sentences may be formed from more simple ones. This latter function became taken over by the phrase structure rules in the later work (Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, 1965) that introduced what became known as the standard theory. In this, phrase structure rules perform the task of defining the deep structure of a sentence, from which its surface structure is thought of as derived by means of possible repeated transformations. Deep structure bears some affinity to the idea of the logical structure of a sentence, thought of as the representation of the sentence that reveals its inferential properties. The notion did not survive in generative semantics, one of the successors to Chomsky's standard theory, in which transformation rules map semantic representations onto surface structures. The introduction of semantics is often thought to be a necessary amendment to the purely syntactic and grammatical approach of Chomsky's early theory.
After the standard theory came the extended standard theory, and eventually government-binding theory, both of which maintain an abstract and mathematical approach to the discovery of linguistic principles of the highest generality. Philosophically most interest has centred on the claim that complex grammatical principles might be innate, and on the relationship between syntax and semantics that is presupposed in the idea of a generative grammar. In general, philosophical formalists have been more interested in the possibility of unravelling concealed semantic structure, rather than in the more purely grammatical problems of linguistics.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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  • generative grammar — ☆ generative grammar n. Linguis. a system of linguistic analysis consisting of a limited, unchanging set of rules employing a list of symbols and words to generate or describe every possible sentence in a language: cf. TRANSFORMATIONAL… …   English World dictionary

  • generative grammar — noun count or uncount LINGUISTICS a type of grammar based on a set of rules that can be used to produce all the sentences possible in a language …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Generative grammar — In theoretical linguistics, generative grammar refers to a particular approach to the study of syntax. A generative grammar of a language attempts to give a set of rules that will correctly predict which combinations of words will form… …   Wikipedia

  • generative grammar — Ling. 1. a linguistic theory that attempts to describe the tacit knowledge that a native speaker has of a language by establishing a set of explicit, formalized rules that specify or generate all the possible grammatical sentences of a language,… …   Universalium

  • generative grammar — UK / US noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms generative grammar : singular generative grammar plural generative grammars linguistics a type of grammar based on a set of rules that can be used to produce all the sentences possible in a language …   English dictionary

  • generative grammar — noun (linguistics) a type of grammar that describes syntax in terms of a set of logical rules that can generate all and only the infinite number of grammatical sentences in a language and assigns them all the correct structural description •… …   Useful english dictionary

  • generative grammar — noun Date: 1959 1. a description in the form of a set of rules for producing the grammatical sentences of a language 2. transformational grammar …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • generative grammar — noun grammar which describes a language in terms of a set of logical rules whereby the infinite number of possible sentences of that language can be generated …   English new terms dictionary

  • generative grammar — noun (C, U) the description of a language using rules that produce all the sentences of the language that are correct according to the rules of grammar …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • generative grammar — gen′erative gram′mar n. 1) ling. a linguistic theory that attempts to describe the tacit knowledge a native speaker has of a language by establishing a set of formal rules that generate all the possible grammatical sentences of a language, while… …   From formal English to slang

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