Presentation on theme: "Syntax and Semantics Dr. Walid Amer, Associate Professor of linguistics The Islamic university of Gaza February, 2009."— Presentation transcript:
Syntax and Semantics Dr. Walid Amer, Associate Professor of linguistics The Islamic university of Gaza February, 2009
Syntax Chapter one Language and mind Knowledge of language
Language is of various definitions. The generative grammar school, for instance, states that language refers to knowledge that native speakers have. This together with other faculties in the mind enables them to communicate, express their thoughts and perform various other functions. Ouhalla, (1994). The task of the linguist is to characterize the knowledge that native speakers have of their language. This includes word formation, pronunciation, rules that govern social behavior and rules of reference which enable people to interpret utterances in relation to a given context.
The definition we are concerned with in this study. knowledge of language means knowledge of the rules which govern pronunciation, and word and sentence formation.
Language and faculties Following the transformational generative grammar school, Knowledge of language is probably independent of intelligence. It can remain intact when other faculties are impaired and vise versa. This simply means that the human mind is said to have a modular structure where each faculty has an autonomous existence. The ability of speaking, i.e, the language relies on the interaction between all such autonomous modules. However, this knowledge of language can be studied separately without being connected with the other faculties of mind. 1 According to Chomsky the faculties of mind are like; the logical faculty, moral and ethical faculties. Each one of these has its own processing procedures.
Grammar and universal grammar The term grammar refers to the rules, which govern pronunciation (phonology), word formation (morphology), and sentence formation (syntax). So, How does anyone of the native speakers of English come to have this intricate and highly specialized system of the grammatical rules of his language?
Axiomatically, such rules are not learnt consciously. That is it is impossible that the native speaker was taught to say brought instead of bringed and mice instead of mouses and at a later stage he/she tries to speak proper English instead of teenage gibberish.
This type of knowledge is subconscious in the sense that although native speakers possess it and use it they do not have direct access to it, therefore they cannot teach it. It is impossible that they originally come to know English by memorizing all sentences that exist in this language because the number of these sentences is infinite.
Additionally one of the properties of language is that a substantial number of sentences speakers produce are novel. (uttered for the first time). This corresponds equally to all natural languages. Consequently such human languages are said to be creative. This creative aspect of language sets a prima-facie evidence that knowledge of language is essentially knowledge of rules.
This knowledge stands as a computational system, which makes it possible to generate an infinite number of sentences from such finite number of rules together with the lexicon. In conclusion, one can learn a human language as a native speaker by observing others speak it, deriving the rules from their speech and then internalizing those rules all at subconscious level
the complexity of human languages is such that learning the from scratch is beyond the reach of living organisms, which do not have some kind of special predisposition, i.e. an innate ability of some sort. Consequently, we can conclude that the innate predisposition to master language basically consists of a set of rules, i.e. a grammar This type of grammar is called universal grammar (UG).
UG is a set of rules that all humans possess by virtue of having certain common generic features, which distinguish them from other organisms. These universal rules are found in English along with all other natural languages. Thus any native speaker of any natural language has the rules of UG, certain rules specific to his or her language and the lexicon.
The task of the linguist is to characterize the knowledge that humans have of their language in formal terms. I.e. The linguist tries to reconstruct via analyzing the data collected in any language the knowledge that exist in the mind of native speakers about their language. This directly means that the task of the linguist is to formulate a theory sometimes called a model, of language.
The process of formulating such theory is composed of attempts to introduce, describe and analyze as many data as possible. The result of such attempts formulates a theory that governs certain constructions, which may prevail in all natural languages or in some specific languages rather than others.
An example that represents constructions that exist in all languages can be syntactic categories like; CP, IP, VP, DP. Having a theory that accounts for any construction of these in English must be directly applicable to the same construction in other human languages.
However the example that represents constructions that are available in certain languages rather than others is represented in preposition stranding, which is available in English but not in French, Arabic and Romance languages. Who did John give the book to? The preposition to is stranded in the sentence final position.
Characteristics of syntactic rules The syntactic rules permit speakers to produce or understand an unlimited number of sentences never produced or heard before. The production and comprehension of the new sentences is called as the creative aspect of language use. Following Fromkin and Rodman (1990: 78), the syntactic rules in a grammar must at least account for the grammaticality of sentences, word order, structural ambiguity, the meaning relations between words in a sentence, the similarity of meaning of sentences with different structures, and speakers’ creative ability to produce and understand any of an infinite set of possible sentences.
To account for the phenomena above, a grammatical theory is erected. Such a theory is supposed to provide a complete characterization of what speakers implicitly know about their language. This theory is called Universal Grammar
Universal Grammar Theory Amer (1996) states that universal grammar (UG) theory is the theory of natural languages and the expressions they generate. It is generally identified with a representation of the language faculty with which humans are endowed. This faculty, which is precisely called mental faculty, is innate.
UG theory in its conventional form includes four levels of representation for any natural language. These levels are represented below. LEXICON DEEP STRUCTURE SURFACE STRUCTURE PHONETIC FORM (PF) LOGICAL FORM (LF)
The grammar of any language is a mapping between these levels. A brief interpretation for these levels: The lexicon contains lexical items which project deep structures (D-structures); in turn, these are mapped into surface structures (S- structures) by the rules of the transformational component (movement or move alpha). The S-structures are then mapped into phonetic from ( PF) and logical form ( LF) components.
The sub-components of grammar can be further characterized. The lexicon specifies those aspects of the abstract morpho-phonological structure of lexical items and their syntactic features, including their categorical and contextual features, which are not predictable by general rule. Consequently the lexical entry of a verb like hit must specify just enough of its properties to determine its sound, meaning and its syntactic rules through the operation of general principles, for the language to which it belongs
D-structure is defined by Chomsky and Lasnik (1991:6) as ‘a level at which lexical items are inserted from the lexicon and lexical properties are represented’ This level is referred to as the internal interface level, since it directly relates the computational system and the lexicon.
D-structure is mapped into S-structure in the computational system by means of Move Alpha (move anything anywhere unless you face a barrier as will be clarified later) The S- structure level can in certain respects be construed as an abstract level involving empty categories left by syntactic movement.
This intermediate level (S-structure) is in turn mapped into LF and PF, for LF it is standardly assumed that this mapping is achieved via move alpha as well, but it seems likely that the mapping to PF includes some fundamentally different processes.
Chomsky (1989) refers to LF and PF as ‘the interface levels’ which connect the language system with other cognitive systems of the mind/brain. PF is the component which links the language system to the perceptual and motor systems involved in language production and perception. LF, on the other hand, is the level, which connects language to the conceptual and pragmatic systems.