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Noam Chomsky’s Theory of Transformational Rules

Noam Chomsky’s Theory of Transformational Rules

Introduction to Syntax (Transformational rules):

The theory of transformational rules starts with the introduction to “Syntax”. It is basically some set of rules by which words combine together to form sentences. In a simpler explanation, it refers to the speaker’s knowledge of the sentence structures.  For instance, “David is looking for Adam” is completely different from “Adam is looking for David”. The sentence structure does remain the same, but the objects when interchange their position give the sentence a whole new meaning.

Explanation to Transformational Rules:

Noam Chomsky, an American linguist contributed to syntax with his theory of transformational grammar. This theory explains the relation between several elements of a sentence. This relationship is known as transformation.

For instance, the sentence “The blue pen was lost”, automatically creates new relational sentences such as “How was the blue pen lost?” or “Who lost the blue pen?”

Similarly, active voice sentences such as “Jack ate the cake” related to its passive voice “The cake was eaten by Jack”.

Basically, transformational grammar introduces two concepts of “deep structure” and “surface structure”.

Deep Structure refers to the ideas, thoughts, or deep-rooted meanings behind a sentence. This form of syntax can be seen in poetry. Where the poet writes his words and verses having a whole different and historical background behind them. Surface Structure refers to nothing more than the words used in a sentence.

For Example the idiom such “Pull someone’s leg”, does not actually mean to pull someone’s leg, rather it means to joke with someone. This shows how the apparent words or the “surface” of the sentence is completely different to its meaning which happens to be its deep structure.

Similarly, even in random sentences, one may give a hint as “The job was done”. This relates to other deep structures such as “What was the job?” Or “How was the job to be performed?”

Henceforth, the theory of transformational rules applies in our daily ways of communication.

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Source: Britannica.com

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