Re: Matt. 12:32

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Sat Jul 25 1998 - 15:13:00 EDT

Dear Jonathan,

You make many fine points, but I would like to address a few issues
you raise. I will document my comments below. Let me say at the outset
that I am not trying to win a debate.

---Jonathan Robie wrote:

> >At 09:51 AM 7/23/98 -0700, Edgar Foster wrote:
> >According to psychologists, sentences have both a surface and deep
structure. Surface structure has reference to the words and phrases
that make up a sentence. Deep structure is the underlying meaning of
the words and phrases in a sentence. Deep structure per se isn't
"new", but the application of deep structure to Biblical studies is a
fairly "new" development.< <
>Deep structure comes from Chomsky's Transformational Grammar. It is a
form of *structure*, not *meaning*. The basic idea is that the same
basic propositions may be expressed through different grammatical
forms, e.g.
active and passive in sentences like this:
> I am writing this email.
> This email is being written by me.

> >Chomsky, back in the Transformational Grammar days, said that these
sentences have the same deep structure, which is basically a
normalized form which can be used to determine whether two different
syntactic structures ("surface structure") contain the same
propositions.< <

You are quite correct in stating that Chomsky defined deep structure
as "a normalized form which can be used to determine whether two
different syntactic structures ("surface structure") contain the same

It is good to note, however, that when the issue of stratafication was
being studied in the 1950s and 1960s, Harris adopted a linguistic
model that began to show recognition of "a stratum above the classical
morphemic level" (Lamb 34). This work took three different directions
(Harris, Chomsky, and Shaumyan). Chomsky said that "deep structure"
and "surface structure" were two levels which held many features
(phonological, etc.) in common. In contrast with the stratal systems
of other linguists, Chomsky emphasized the difference of "form"
between "deep structure" and surface structure. This does not mean
that all linguists define "deep structure" in this way. Essentially,
Chomsky's work was utilized to develop rules for transforming "deep
structure" to "surface structure." I thus hold to my original
proposition that "deep structure" refers to the underlying
representation of meaningful units in a sentence.

> >I'm not sure which psychologists view deep structure as "the
underlying meaning" of the words and phrases of a sentence, but as I
understand it, deep structure is *structure*, not *meaning*. I guess
the adjective "deep" sounds mysterious and meaningful, but I don't
think Chomsky taught that the deep structure represents the "true
inner meaning" of a sentence.< <

As stated above, Chomsky's work was built upon by other linguists.
Subsequently, deep structure is defined by other psychologists (and
linguists) as "the underlying meaning" of words and phrases in a
sentence. For proof of this point, please read the references below:

"deep structure-n. Ling. An abstract underlying structure that
determines the actual form of a sentence" (New American Heritage

Psychologist Charles Morris also defines deep structure as "the
underlying meaning of a sentence" (Morris 237 [1996]).

"Psychologists who are concerned with the way people use and
understand language divide language into two structures, or types of
representations." The underlying representation of language refers to
the meaning component of language--it's the thought you want to
convey. Surface structure refers to the sounds of the verbal
expression that you use" (Halpern 89 [1989])

Here again, deep structure seems to be defined as the thought behind
the words--their meaning. True, not all take this approach to
linguistics. But, there are certain psychologists who do hold to this
school of thought.
> >For what it's worth, Chomsky himself moved significantly away from
deep structure in his "Government and Binding Theory", the successor to
Transformational Grammar, and abandoned it altogether in his current
approach to linguistics, which is known as "Minimalism". Instead of
deep structure, he now focuses on "Logical Form", which infers the
propositions of a sentence directly from its surface structure.< <

Here again, your comments are right on target.

> >KAI (R) + QEOS (O) + HN (R) + hO (R) + LOGOS (O)

> >From this diagram, the translator then proceeds to understand the
underlying meaning of the clause under discussion.< <

> >I would rather say that the diagram presents the propositions made
in a sentence in a normalized form. I'm uncomfortable with calling the
set of propositions made in a sentence the "underlying meaning" or
with implying that the deep structure is somehow closer to the
underlying meaning of a sentence than the surface structure. Of
course, we can't talk meaningfully about this without first
establishing the meaning of the phrase "underlying meaning" and
determining how to assess the distance between various graphical
representation of a sentence and it's "underlying meaning".< <

I would not call the propositions in a diagram the "underlying
meaning" either. My comments above were intended to demonstrate how
one ascertains the "underlying representation" of surface structure.
We can move from the diagram TO the underlying meaning. As for the
definition of deep structure, I am working with the denotation
proposed above--underlying meaning.

> >The deep structure is simply a graphical representation of a
sentence which presents the propositions of the sentence in a direct,
normalized form.< <

Halpern seems to have a valid point when she contends that "deep
structure" precedes the surface structure of a sentence. Deep
structure is the URSTOFF of surface structure. The underlying meaning
of a sentence first originates in the mind of the speaker. Then, the
said speaker either voices his or her "meaning" to a pool of
listeners, or presents a written representation of his or her
thoughts. Thus, we have two aspects of deep structure. One, the
meaning the speaker originally conceives in his or her mind; the
other, the thought he or she tries to convey to his or her listeners.

> >When the TEV was translated, did the translator really graph the
Greek sentences and convert them to their deep structure?< <

I will not contend that the translators of the TEV actually followed
the procedure outlined above. But their intent was to communicate the
deep structure of the original surface structure.

> >I don't think it's fair to say that the RSV emphasizes the surface
structure of Greek - it generally seeks to maintain grammatical forms
as close as possible to those found in the original, but I doubt very
much that Metzger ever made up the surface structure graphs for the
Greek, then analyzed them and used them as a basis for translation.< <

It is unlikely that Metzger formulated various surface structure
graphs, and worked from these. It is apparent, however, that the RSV
does seek to convey the surface structure and not so much the
underlying meaning of the original speakers.

"the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth" (RSV)

"The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived
among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the
Father's only Son" (TEV)

> >One work that briefly touches on deep structure is psychologist's
Sydney Lamb's _Outline of Stratificational Grammar_. On. pp. 34-35,
40, the development of deep structure is discussed in detail (from
Harris, Chomsky, and Shaumyan).< <
> >Haven't read it - I know my Transformational Grammar mainly from
Radford and from Akmajian and Heny. But I'm getting old (grin!).< <

Nah Jonathan. You're not that old, are you? :-) Actually, the work is
worth a read. Its not that long, and the concepts Lamb works with are
quite intriguing. At the present, I'm trying to apply his concepts to
NT Greek.

Take Care,

Edgar Foster

Classics Major

Lenoir-Rhyne College

Hickory, NC

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