Generative grammar

Video credit: The Virtual Linguistics Campus, “Syntax – Generative Grammar” March 19, 2012, via YouTube.

Generative grammar is an approach to study of syntax which attempts to elaborate some general (hence generative) or overarching rules which may accurately predict possible combinations of words [i.e. syntactic structures] used by native speakers of this language to form grammatically correct sentences. Thus, the objective is to find out the formal rules according to which a particular language functions. This objective differs from the functional perspective on grammar, since the proponents of the functional approach focus on the way in which a language is used within a concrete communicative context (see the post on Hymes’s SPEAKING model) and not just the formal elements of this language.

Central to generative grammar is understanding of the human ability to acquire a language as an innate (i.e. genetically predetermined) property of our brain. In other words, babies are born with the ability to use a language and learn a language precisely based on this ability as opposed to observing how this particular language is used and forming grammar rules.

Generative grammar is often associated with the works by the famous linguist Noam Chomsky (2002) beginning in 1950s. His early works are refereed to as transformational grammar.

This video in this post elaborates more on syntax from the perspective of generative grammar.

Here are some useful marking tools to asses a sentence:
V (tick)                   – grammatically correct = well formed sentence
* (asterisk)             – non-meaningful
? (question mark)  – grammatically incorrect = ungrammatical sentence

The lecturer in the video uses an asterisk and a question mark; however, a tick is often used by linguists too.

Chomsky, A.N. (2002). Syntactic Structures (2nd ed.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.




    1. Theoretical linguistics | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    2. Descriptive linguistics | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS

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