Productivity occurs at both lexical and sentence level; possible to
generate an infinite number of words/sentences from a finite set of
How is this possible? A rule structure (or grammar) is proposed (there
are alternatives; e.g., connectionism) that allows for linguistic
Criteria for evaluating a grammar (from Chomsky):
1. Observational adequacy; must specify what counts as acceptable
strings (evidence = intuition)
2. Descriptive adequacy; must specify relationship between strings similar in some manner (e.g.,active - passive)
3. Explanatory adequacy; language acquisition based on universal principles.
4? Psychological reality (i.e., representational level)
Behaviorist (Skinner): Markov finite state models; each word serves as a
stimulus for next word
Sequential (left to right) model. Transitional probabilities based on
e.g.: The boy hit the ball
Probability of "boy" following "The" > probability of "hit" following "The"
Acquisition based on reinforcement
1. Acquisition (explanatory adequacy); can construct sentences never heard (and hence not reinforced)
2. Transitional probabilities can't explain acceptability (observational adequacy):
e.g.: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously
Transitional probabilities = 0, yet grammatical
e.g.: Goes down here is not large feet are happy
Transitional probabilities are high but not grammatical
3. Sentence ambiguity; can't explain sentences with multiple interpretations
e.g., They are visiting fireman
4. Can't explain sentence embedding
(dependencies need not be adjacent
e.g., If...then/ either S1 or S2 constructions.
e.g.: The team that decided to show up won the game. ("won" related to "team" not "won")
Phrase Structure Grammars
Proposed by neobehaviorists (e.g., Jenkins & Palermo, 1964) and a
component of early Chomsky grammar.
Sentences are grouped into constituents that are organized hierarchically (rather than sequentially)Phrase structure grammar consists of rules for rewriting a constituent into a set of one or more constituents
e.g.: The boy hit the ball
S -> NP VP S
NP -> det (adj) N NP VP
VP -> V NP det N V NPN -> boy, ball The boy hit det N
V -> hit the ball
det -> the
Handles embedded elements (hierarchical)
Allows for recursion (NP -> NP S); can generate infinite number of sentences
e.g., The boy who plays baseball hit the ball
NP S V NP
det NP NP VP hit det N
The boy who V NP the ball
1. Can't explain similarity of sentences with different surface structures (e.g., active-passive)
2. Can't explain underlying differences between sentences with similar surface structures (e.g., eager/easy)
3. Can't explain sentence ambiguity; how to parse sentences with multiple meanings:
E.g.: They are visiting fireman
Assume existence of two levels:
Deep structure - underlying structure of sentences most related to its meaning (but not identical to meaning). Deep structure generated based on phrase structure rules
Surface structure - actual arrangement of constituents when written or spoken. Derived from deep structure via rewrite rules (deep structure transformed into surface structure.Examples (rules are simplified):
1. Active - passive transformation:
The boy (NP1) hit (V) the ball (NP2) ->The ball (NP2) was (Aux) hit (V) by the boy (NP1)
2. Particle movement transformation:
He called up his bookie -> He called his bookie upRestriction: NP2 = pronoun (*He called up him)
3. Dative (transfer verbs) movement transformation:
He gave the money to his bookie -> He gave to his bookie the money.4. Declarative - interrogative relationship:
e.g.: He hit the ball. What did he hit?He hit the ball
He hit what (substitution)What he hit (displacement)
What he did hit (implicit auxiliary made explicit)
What did he hit? (Permutation; transpose subject and auxiliary)
Lexical ConstraintsTransformational grammar is concerned with syntax. But Chomsky (e.g., 1965; Aspects of syntax) did attempt to deal with meaning (in a limited way).
Subcategorization rules: verbs can be categorized in terms of the types of
constituents with which they can co-occur.
Dative (e.g., give) give [V+ NP NP] (2 object noun phrases required)
Intransitive (e.g., die) die [V - ] (no object noun phrases)
Selectional restrictions: restrictions on selection of NPs specified by subcategorization rules
E.g., scare [V + NP[animate]]
Note: semantics more ambiguous than syntax. E.g.: talk - animate; *?I talked to my computer. (Role of world knowledge)
1. Parsimony. Not an elegant theory. Numerous rules that children must learn and learn quickly. Explanatory adequacy weak2. Psychological reality (representational level). Little empirical evidence for actual occurrence of transformations during processing.
Derivational theory of complexity (Miller); more transformations should take longer to process. Little support.
Plus, transformations may not be independent of meaning.E.g., Slobin (1966); Present picture and ask Ss to verify
Reversible The dog chased the cat.
The cat was chased by the dog.Nonreversible: The boy raked the leaves
The leaves were raked by the boy.Passive > active for reversible but not for nonreversible (semantics short-circuits need for syntactic work; leaves can't rake boys.
3. Role of semantics underdeveloped
Government and Binding Theory
1. Units can be intermediate in size between noun and verb phrases and emphasis is no most important word in constituent.
X (X-bar) -> N (N-bar) V (V-bar) I (I-bar)X = head (most important word/phrase) + arguments+spec
Arguments = role players (essential)adjuncts (modifiers)
Spec = specifier (optional); subjectUniversal structure, but language variability in terms of order:
English - head first
Japanese - head last
The president (Head) of Ball State University (RP) with the great retirement package (adjunct) will be leaving soon (V).The president with the great retirement package of Ball State University will be leaving soon.
He paid in the park his bookie.
Ball State (NP) will (I-head) make (V-head) the NCAA tournament (NP) this year (V adjunct).
Verbs carry enough information so that transformations become less important
E.g., congratulate [V Agent (NP) Patient (NP)]
E.g., Bill congratulated Al;
give - subject, object, to object
3. Fewer transformations; deep structure (d-structure) less important.
NP IThe ball aux V NP PP
was hit (the ball) by him
tracehit [V object] - object moved to NP, trace remains.