RE: Chomsky, rain and ice cubes revisited

From: Lindsay J. Whaley (
Date: Thu May 15 1997 - 13:43:13 EDT

--- Clayton Bartholomew wrote:
 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.
--- end of quoted material ---

Chomsky's mentor, Zellig Harris, advocated a transformational model which could
be employed for text analysis. Chomsky's framework, however, was meant to be a
model of speaker knowledge about language. He never suggested thatit could be
used as a model/method of translation.
        The place of semantics in Chomsky's early work was a matter of intense
debate. He himself ended up taking the position that transformations had no
direct effect on meaning, so the notion that kernal sentences (propostions)
were transformed into surface structures actually became incompatible with his
theory of syntax.

Lindsay Whaley
Dartmouth College

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