RE: Chomsky, rain and ice cubes revisited

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Thu May 15 1997 - 06:17:41 EDT

Micheal Palmer

It's been over a decade since I studied translation theory. My memory is
vague but I don't think there was much distance between Chomsky's early
theory and the translation models I saw being advocated.

The authors of these models were using all of the transformational
grammar terminology. Possibly I am attributing ideas to Chomsky which
were not his at all. Like blaming Calvin for the theology of Bezae.

I distinctly remember seeing a translation model where the surface
structure of the source language was being broken down into kernel
propositions (deep structure) and then being *transformed* into the
surface structure of the target language. The authors of this model
claimed they were using principles of transformational grammar. If not,
it is the *method* that has problems, whatever the source.

This method makes me nervous. I would like to see someone translate *To
The Light House*, by Virginia Woolf in this manner or perhaps Faulkner's
*The Sound and the Fury.* One reason I mentioned Richmond Lattimore is
he had a genuine respect for the surface structure of the ancient
documents. His translations of Homer and others are in my mind models
for emulation.

I have also learned a lot from the transformational grammarians. But I
am not a member of the club.

Thanks for responding.

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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