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Chomsky's Generative Linguistics: An Introduction

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Q:        Why is it called 'generative'?
A:      'generative'- to generate = (1) to produce, (2) to specify the rules
(1)  owing to our mental grammar, when we speak / write we produce new grammatical sentences.
(2)  Generative Grammar describes our mental grammar by specifying the rules / making the hidden linguistic rules in our head explicit. It has two ways:
(a) by drawing a tree structure (Tree diagrams);
(b) by stating the Phrase Structure (PS) Rules in the form of “re-write” rules: X à X  Z 
(e.g., S à NP  VP)

Three important linguistic principles
Q:      What makes us able to distinguish between grammatical and ungrammatical sentences?

A:      The “mental grammar” or the “linguistic competence” in our mind does.
The first principle proposed by Chomsky is (1) Language is a mental fact.

How many sentences do you think you can arrange from these words?

"saw – tigers – Wilson"

(1)        *Saw tigers Wilson (ill-formed)

(2)        *Saw Wilson tigers (ill-formed)

(3)        Tigers saw Wilson (unusual meaning)

(4)        *Tigers Wilson saw (ill-formed)

(5)        Wilson saw tigers (well-formed)

(6)        *Wilson tigers saw (ill-formed)



Q:        Can language imitated and produced by parrot be called a language?

A:        (2) Language is innate in the sense that every human child is endowed with the LAD (language acquisition device).  It is this LAD that makes  language  acquisition possible.  Note that the LAD is species-specific, that is, only humans—but not animals—have the LAD.  Therefore, only humans—but not animals—can acquire human language.



Q:        Can you produce an English sentence/ utterance that never be used by any other human in this surface of the earth?
A:        (3) Language is creative.  “linguistic creativity” = crossing the borders / limits of linguistic rules,e.g., That’s very you; kopi banget; benci à membencikan; to slipper the cockroach; Is this a knock-knock bird?

This can be explained in two different ways.  First, as noted above, “linguistic
creativity” means crossing the borders/limits of the existing linguistic rules.  In
addition to the examples given above, some poets are fond of “violating” linguistic
rules, since they are entitled to “poetic license” = lisensia puitika
            Anyone lived in a pretty how town
            With up so floating many bells down
            Spring summer autumn winter
            He sang his didn’t, he danced his did.
                                                (E. E. Cummings)

Secondly, “creativity” refers to our every use of our language.  Every time we speak / write, we “create” new utterances/sentences. 
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