transformational-generative grammar, linguistic theory associated with Noam Chomsky , particularly with his Syntactic Structures (1957), and with Chomsky's teacher Zellig Harris. Generative grammar attempts to define rules that can generate the infinite number of grammatical (well-formed) sentences possible in a language. It starts not from a behaviorist analysis of minimal sounds but from a rationalist assumption that a deep structure underlies a language, and that a similar deep structure underlies all languages. Transformational grammar seeks to identify rules (transformations) that govern relations between parts of a sentence, on the assumption that beneath such aspects as word order a fundamental structure exists. Transformational and generative grammar together were the starting point for the tremendous growth in linguistics studies since the 1950s.
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