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Transformational Generative Grammar

“Transformational Generative Grammar Theory” was presented by

Noam Chomsky. This theory is about structure (Syntax) of sentences in
a language. This theory tells us how syntax is formed and learned.

The study and organization or arrangement of sentences in a
language is called Syntax.

T.G.G theory explains this arrangement and organization of

sentences. It means how correct and well-formed sentences are made
or formed.
First generation takes place and then transformation takes place.
There are two main parts of this theory, which are as follows:

o Generation or Generative Grammar

o Transformation or Transformational Grammar

Transformational Generative Grammar

Generative Grammar Transformational Grammar

Let’s concentrate on both of these aspects of T.G.G.

1: Generation or Generative Grammar:

This part of T.G.G deals with the generation of sentences, i.e.,

correct and well-formed sentences. For this some rules are necessary
for the formation of correct sentences. Now Generation Grammar can
be defined as:
“A particular type of grammar which would have a very explicit
system of rules specifying what combinations of basic elements would
result in well-formed sentences.”
It means that Generation Grammar is a set of basic principles
and explicit rules which deals with the formation of sentences.

Now take a look on these basic explicit rules for generation of

Rule 1:
We know that the basic structure of a sentence is that it
consists of a Noun Phrase and Verb Phrase i.e., NP and VP.

Rule 2:

A Noun Phrase usually consists of a noun and article as in 1) or

a noun as in 2) or it may consist of a noun, article and adjective as in

Rule 3:

A Verb Phrase is usually consists of a verb and prepositional

phrase as in 1) or an auxiliary verb and verb as in,
I am reading newspaper.
or it may consist of a verb and adverb as in,
She walks quickly.

We can create or generate many sentences or structures by keeping in

view any basic rule or structure in mind.

Qualities of Generative Grammar

Some basic qualities of generative grammar are given as

Quality 1:

By using these explicit rules we will form correct and well-

formed sentences, not incorrect and ill-formed.

Quality 2:

By using one structure or finite structures a number of or

infinite sentences can be produced.

Quality 3:
Recursion or Recursive rule

Recursion is the capacity to be applied more than once in

generating a structure.
“He is the man who caught the thief who stole the jewelry that I
bought yesterday”
In this example relative clause is used more than once to create a long
sentence. It means that we can create long sentences by Recursion
The same rule can be applied again and again to create more
and more sentences.

Ahmad thought Ali helped him

Quality 4:
Deep structure and Surface Structure

On the basis of Generative Grammar we are able to

differentiate between deep and surface structures.

Surface Structure:

The formal structure of a sentence as it actually occurs in

speech. It is the apparent structure of a sentence.

Deep Structure:
The deep structure is a direct representation of the basic
semantic relations underlying a sentence. It is the underlying meaning
of the sentence.

Let’s take an example to understand the difference between

deep and surface structures.
i) I ate a banana.
ii) A banana was eaten by me.
In this example i) is active voice and ii) is passive voice.
Structures of the sentences are different but the meanings are same.
In the above example there are two surface structures but one deep
structure or underlying meaning. It means that a sentence can have
two or many surface structure but one deep structure.
Now take another example;
“The lady beat a man with an umbrella.”
What we read is the surface structure of this sentence, but
when we ponder on its meaning we feel ambiguity in getting its
meaning. Whether it means that the lady is having an umbrella and
she is beating the man with it or that the lady is beating the man who
is having an umbrella. This ambiguity leads to two different meanings
of one sentence. It means that a sentence can have on surface
structure but more deep structures.

Tree Diagram:
It is defined as a way of representing a sentence with its
structure. This structure is drawn in the shape of tree having branches.
This type of tree-diagram representation contains all the grammatical
information found in the other analyses, but also shows more explicitly
the fact that there are different levels in the analysis.
The monkey ate a banana.

Tree diagram of this sentence would be like this,
Phrase Structure Rule:

Phase structure rules are used to describe a given language’s

syntax. This is accomplished by attempting to break language down
into its constituent parts namely Phrasal Categories and Lexical
Categories. The former include the noun phrase (NP), verb phrase (VP)
and prepositional phrase (PP). And the latter include noun (N), verb (V),
adjective (Adj), adverb (Adv) and many others.

These rules present the information of the tree-diagram in an

alternative format.



NP N + art

NP N + art + adj

VP aux + V


PP Preposition + NP

2: Transformation:

Literally transformation means “ to change the form of

something.” Here we write a sentence then we change its form by
moving, adding, deleting some words but the actual meanings remains
the same.

i) I met my friend yesterday.
ii) Yesterday I met my friend.
In the first sentence the adverbs is in the last
place and in the second sentence the adverb is in the first place but
the meanings of both of the sentences are same just it has been
transformed into another structure.
Let’s take another example.
iii) He is ridiculing his friend.
To make this sentence interrogative we transform the position
or shape of the sentence by moving the auxiliary verb.
iv) Is he ridiculing his friend?
This shows that by transformation we can produce many
sentences by keeping in view one sentence.