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deep structure (transformational grammar)

In transformational grammar, the underlying syntactic structure (or level) of a
sentence. In contrast to surface structure (the outward form of a sentence),
deep structure is an abstract representation that identifies the ways a sentence
can be analyzed and interpreted.
In transformational grammar, deep structures are generated byphrasestructure rules, and surface structures are derived from deep structures by a
series of transformations.
(See Examples and Observations, below.)
See also:

Case Grammar

Chomskyan Linguistics

Generative Grammar

Kernel Sentence

Linguistic Competence

Linguistic Performance

Relational Grammar

Surface Structure

Ten Types of Grammar

Transformational Grammar

Examples and Observations:

"[Noam] Chomsky had identified a basic grammatical structure

in Syntactic Structures[1957] that he referred to as kernel sentences.
Reflecting mentalese, kernel sentences were where words and meaning
first appeared in the complex cognitive process that resulted in
an utterance. In [Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, 1965], Chomsky
abandoned the notion of kernel sentences and identified the underlying
constituents of sentences as deep structure. The deep structure was
versatile insofar as it accounted for meaning and provided the basis for
transformations that turned deep structure into surface structure, which
represented what we actually hear or read. Transformation rules,
therefore, connected deep structure and surface structure, meaning
and syntax."
(James D. Williams, The Teacher's Grammar Book. Lawrence Erlbaum,

Evolving Perspectives on Deep Structure

"The remarkable first chapter of Noam Chomsky's Aspects of the Theory of
Syntax(1965) set the agenda for everything that has happened in generative
linguistics since. Three theoretical pillars support the enterprise: mentalism,
combinatoriality, andacquisition. . . .
"A fourth major point of Aspects, and the one that attracted most attention from the
wider public, concerned the notion of Deep Structure. A basic claim of the 1965
version of generative grammar was that in addition to the surface form of sentences
(the form we hear), there is another level of syntactic structure, called Deep
Structure, which expresses underlying syntactic regularities of sentences. For
instance, a passive sentence like (1a) was claimed to have a Deep Structure in
which the noun phrases are in the order of the corresponding active (1b):

(1a) The bear was chased by the lion.

(1b) The lion chased the bear.
Similarly, a question such as (2a) was claimed to have a Deep Structure closely resembling
that of the corresponding declarative (2b):
(2a) Which martini did Harry drink?
(2b) Harry drank that martini.
. . . Following a hypothesis first proposed by Katz and Postal (1964), Aspects made the striking
claim that the relevant level of syntax for determining meaning is Deep Structure.
"In its weakest version, this claim was only that regularities of meaning are most directly
encoded in Deep Structure, and this can be seen in (1) and (2). However, the claim was
sometimes taken to imply much more: that Deep Structure is meaning, an interpretation
that Chomsky did not at first discourage. And this was the part of generative linguistics that
got everyone really excited--for if the techniques of transformational grammar could lead us
to meaning, we would be in a position to uncover the nature of human thought. . . .
"When the dust of the ensuing 'linguistic wars' cleared around 1973 . . ., Chomsky had won
(as usual)--but with a twist: he no longer claimed that Deep Structure was the sole level
that determines meaning (Chomsky 1972). Then, with the battle over, he turned his
attention, not to meaning, but to relatively technical constraints on movement

transformations (e.g. Chomsky 1973, 1977)."

(Ray Jackendoff, Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure. MIT
Press, 2007)

Surface Structure and Deep Structure in a Sentence by Joseph Conrad

"[Consider] the final sentence of [Joseph Conrad's short story] 'The Secret Sharer':

Walking to the taffrail, I was in time to make out, on the very edge of a darkness thrown by
a towering black mass like the very gateway of Erebus--yes, I was in time to catch an
evanescent glimpse of my white hat left behind to mark the spot where the secret sharer of
my cabin and of my thoughts, as though he were my second self, had lowered himself into
the water to take his punishment: a free man, a proud swimmer striking out for a new
I hope others will agree that the sentence justly represents its author: that it portrays a mind
energetically stretching to subdue a dazzling experience outside the self, in a way that has
innumerable counterparts elsewhere. How does scrutiny of the deep structuresupport this
intuition? First, notice a matter of emphasis, of rhetoric. The matrix sentence, which lends
a surface form to the whole, is '# S # I was in time # S #' (repeated twice).
The embedded sentences that complete it are 'I walked to the taffrail,' 'I made out + NP,'
and 'I caught + NP.' The point of departure, then, is the narrator himself: where he was,
what he did, what he saw. But a glance at the deep structure will explain why one feels a
quite different emphasis in the sentence as a whole: seven of the embedded sentences
have 'sharer' as grammatical subjects; in another three the subject is a noun linked to
'sharer' by the copula; in two 'sharer' is direct object; and in two more 'share' is the verb.
Thus thirteen sentences go to the semantic development of 'sharer' as follows:
1. The secret sharer had lowered the secret sharer into the water.
2. The secret sharer took his punishment.
3. The secret sharer swam.
4. The secret sharer was a swimmer.
5. The swimmer was proud.
6. The swimmer struck out for a new destiny.
7. The secret sharer was a man.
8. The man was free.
9. The secret sharer was my secret self.

10. The secret sharer had (it).

11. (Someone) punished the secret sharer.
12. (Someone) shared my cabin.
13. (Someone) shared my thoughts.
In a fundamental way, the sentence is mainly about Leggatt, although the surface structure
indicates otherwise. . . .
"[The] progression in the deep structure rather precisely mirrors both the rhetorical
movement of the sentence from the narrator to Leggatt via the hat that links them, and the
thematic effect of the sentence, which is to transfer Leggatt's experience to the narrator via
the narrator's vicarious and actual participation in it. Here I shall leave this
abbreviatedrhetorical analysis, with a cautionary word: I do not mean to suggest that only
an examination of deep structure reveals Conrad's skillful emphasis--on the contrary, such
an examination supports and in a sense explains what any careful reader of the story
(Richard M. Ohmann, "Literature as Sentences." College English, 1966. Rpt. in Essays in
Stylistic Analysis, ed. by Howard S. Babb. Harcourt, 1972)
What is the difference between surface and deep layer in language?
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The terms "surface layer" and "deep layer" refer to different levels that
information goes through in the language production system. For example,
imagine that you see a dog chasing a mailman. When you encode this
information, you create a representation that includes three pieces of
information: a dog, a mailman, and the action chasing. This information exists
in the mind of the speaker as a "deep" structure. If you want to express this
information linguistically, you can, for example, produce a sentence like "The
dog is chasing the mailman." This is the "surface" layer: it consists of the words
and sounds produced by a speaker (or writer) and perceived by a listener (or
reader). You can also produce a sentence like "The mailman is being chased by
a dog" to describe the same event -- here, the order in which you mention the
two characters (the "surface" layer) is different from the first sentence, but
both sentences are derived from the same "deep" representation. Linguists
propose that you can perform movement operations to transform the
information encoded in the "deep" layer into the "surface" layer, and refer to
these movement operations as linguistic rules. Linguistic rules are part of the
grammar of a language and must be learned by speakers in order to produce
grammatically correct sentences.
Rules exist for different types of utterances. Other examples of rules, or
movement operations between "deep" and "surface" layers, include declarative

sentences (You have a dog) and their corresponding interrogative sentences

(Do you have a dog?). Here, the movement operations include switching the
order of the first two words of the sentence.
D-structure and S-structure
An immediate consequence of accepting movements as a part of grammatical
description is that there are at least two levels that we can describe the
structure of any sentence: a level before movement takes place and a level
after movement has taken place.




The difference between the two levels of structural description will simply be
the positions that the moved elements occupy, given the above assumption
that movements do not actually alter the structure. For example, consider the
following two sentences:

Mary met Mark in the park

in the park, Mary met Mark

In (60a) the PP in the park is an adjunct to the VP, modifying the VP by adding
information about where the meeting took place. In (60b) the PP has moved to
the front of the sentence, in a similar way to that in which topics are moved to
the front. We can call this movement preposing. Before the preposing takes
place, the PP is in its VPadjoined position:
After the movement, the structure will look like this:
We call the structure before movement takes place, a D-structure and the
post-movement structure an S-structure. The D and the S originally stood
for deep and surface, reflecting the fact that S-structures represent an ordering
of the elements which is closer to that which holds in the externalisation of the
sentence (its pronunciation, or whatever) while D-structures represent an
abstract level of description more deeply embedded in the analysis. However,
the words deep and surface have unfortunate connotations which may lead to
misunderstanding. Deep, for example, can be taken to mean meaningful or
ponderous, while surface can mean superficial or apparent. It would be

wrong however to come to the conclusion that deep-structure is somehow

more important or that surface-structure is irrelevant. These terms should be
taken simply as referring to the two levels of the description of a sentence and
neither one nor the other is any more important than the other. This is why the
more neutral terms D-structure and S-structure are used and we will follow this
tradition. D-structure and Theta Theory S-structure and Case Theory