Chomsky-Deep Structure Is Common To All Sentence Meaning

The Saussure Chomsky Difference

Whereas Saussure dealt with language in terms of a holistic system of
differentiation, Chomsky extends this system into the realm of transformational
or generative grammar. Saussure’s structuralism did not build bridges between
itself and Kantian philosophy. It might even be argued, in fact, that Saussure
tried to burn a few of these bridges. Except for his use of certain essential
Kantian categories, e.g., identity (memory), plurality, differentiation etc.,
Saussure’s structuralism restricts itself to organizing and orientating the
methodological study of language. Chomsky, on the other hand, developed a
differentiating, holistic theory of language that allows for novelty and
creativity. Saussure’s langue and parole, in Chomsky’s linguistics, became
language competence and performance. With the performance attribute of language, Chomsky took a syntagmatic approach to language which essentially means that Chomsky added to Saussure’s theory a recursive body of rules for the purpose of generating syntax or sentences in the performance of speech. This generative syntax became one component of the two-component aspect of Chomsky’s linguistic theory.

Chomsky believed language to be a product of both a deep and surface structure
of mind. In this respect, he split language syntax into two levels, one to
describe the deep structure of language and one to show how this deep structure
transforms into surface structure.

[Footnote. Chomsky illustrates: To take a simple case, consider the sentences
“John appealed to Bill to like himself” and “John appeared to Bill to like
himself.” The two sentences are virtually identical in surface form, but
obviously quite different in interpretation. Thus when I say “John appealed to
Bill to like himself,” I mean that Bill is to like himself; but when I say “John
appeared to Bill to like himself,” it is John who likes himself. It is only at
what I would call the level of “deep structure” that the semantically
significant grammatical relations are directly expressed in this case. Noam
Chomsky, Problems of Knowledge and Freedom, 1971, p.24]

In this regard Chomsky is giving language analysis a more Kantian perspective.
Chomsky was not shy about his belief in innate structures of the mind. Kant’s
influence becomes apparent when he says:

“There are, then, certain language universals that set limits to the variety of
human language. The study of the universal conditions that prescribe the form of
any human language is “grammaire generale.” Such universal conditions are not
learned; rather, they provide the organizing principles that make language
learning possible, that must exist if data is to lead to knowledge. By
attributing such principles to the mind, as an innate property, it becomes
possible to account for the quite obvious fact that the speaker of a language
knows a great deal that he has not learned.” [Noam Chomsky, Cartesian
Linguistics, 1966, p.59]


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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