transformational grammar

transformational grammar

noun
a system of grammatical analysis, especially a form of generative grammar, that posits the existence of deep structure and surface structure, using a set of transformational rules to derive surface structure forms from deep structure; a grammar that uses transformations to express the relations between equivalent structures.

Origin:
1960–65

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transformational grammar
 
n
systemic grammar Compare case grammar a grammatical description of a language making essential use of transformational rules. Such grammars are usually but not necessarily generative grammars

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Encyclopedia Britannica
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transformational grammar

a system of language analysis that recognizes the relationship among the various elements of a sentence and among the possible sentences of a language and uses processes or rules (some of which are called transformations) to express these relationships. For example, transformational grammar relates the active sentence "John read the book" with its corresponding passive, "The book was read by John." The statement "George saw Mary" is related to the corresponding questions, "Whom [or who] did George see?" and "Who saw Mary?" Although sets such as these active and passive sentences appear to be very different on the surface (i.e., in such things as word order), a transformational grammar tries to show that in the "underlying structure" (i.e., in their deeper relations to one another), the sentences are very similar. Transformational grammar assigns a "deep structure" and a "surface structure" to show the relationship of such sentences. Thus, "I know a man who flies planes" can be considered the surface form of a deep structure approximately like "I know a man. The man flies airplanes." The notion of deep structure can be especially helpful in explaining ambiguous utterances; e.g., "Flying airplanes can be dangerous" may have a deep structure, or meaning, like "Airplanes can be dangerous when they fly" or "To fly airplanes can be dangerous."

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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