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Chomsky: Remarks on Nominalization: Derived and Gerundive Nominals

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2001 19 Pages

American Studies - Linguistics

Excerpt

Table of content

1. Introduction

2. Syntax vs. Lexicon
2.1 Lexicon
2.2 Verbs
2.3 Nouns
2.4 The Definition Of Syntax

3. Surface vs. Deep Structure

4. Lexicalist vs. Transformationalist Position

5. Lexicalist Approach On Derived Nominals

6. Lexicalist Approach On Gerundive Nominals

7. Nominalization

8. Derived Nominals
8a. Complements

9. The Most Important Differences Between Gerunds And Derived Nominals

10. Conclusion

11. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky is seen as one of the most important developers of language theories. He has composed and published many literary works that have been dispersed worldwide. He has worked to further the study and understanding of linguistics from both the biological and psychological perspective.

This termpaper mainly refers to Chomsky's essay "Remarks on Nominalization" [1], published in 1970. In this essay he discusses the major structural differences between "gerunds" ( verbal nouns like in "John being easy to please", or "John interesting the children with his stories") and "derived nominals" (regular nouns like in "the destruction of the city").

"Among various types of nominal expressions in English there are two of particular importance, each roughly of propositional form...the gerundive nominals...and the derived nominals..."[2]

In my termpaper I am going to comment exactly on those two linguistic phenomenons: gerundive nominals vs. derived nominals. In order to comprehend Chomsky's analysis I will have to provide some general assumptions about syntax, the lexicon and the approaches Chomsky uses in his article.

2. Syntax vs. Lexicon

First of all Chomsky explains the relation between syntax and the lexicon and makes clear that they interact with one another.

"grammar contains a base consisting of a categorial component ( which I will assume to be a context-free grammar ) and a lexicon."[3]

2.1 Lexicon:

We can say that the lexicon (a system of specified features)[4] is that part of our human brain which gives us the opportunity to recognise a word and to be immediately able to distinguish between four different, universal categories the word is part of: N (Noun), V (Verb), A (Adjective) and P (Preposition)[5]. It is assumed that this categorial specification of a word is included in the lexicon.

Examples:

1.) cat: noun
2.) eat: verb
3.) nice: adjective
4.) at: prepostion

For this termpaper and discussion of nominalizations two categories are of particular importance: verbs and nouns.

2.2 Verbs:

Verbs denote events, take arguments and can be modified by adverbs. For tense, aspect, mood or agreement verbs are inflected.[6]

2.3 Nouns:

Nouns are referential expressions. They lack arguments; they can be modified by adjectives and are inflected for number, case, gender and definiteness.[7]

2.4 The Definition Of Syntax :

2.4a.) In a language, syntax shows the relationships among characters or groups of characters, independent of their meanings or the manner of their interpretation and use.
2.4b.) Syntax gives us a structure of expressions in a language.
2.4c.) it provides the rules governing the structure of a language.
2.4d.) it is able to show the relationship among symbols.

Often the relation among those characters, their structures and the relation among symbols are expressed within a tree diagram (shown below). There the syntactic category of a word determines its contribution. This means that words which we insert into the tree receive the same thematic role as their head.

Example:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Looking at the lexicon and syntax we can describe their relation as follows: the output of the lexicon is the input to syntax.[9]

3. Surface vs. Deep Structure

Futhermore Chomsky differentiates between two different types of syntactical analysis' : the surface vs. the deep structure analysis.

The deep structures of sentences like: Sarah liked whom ? are related on the level of their semantic interpretation. Surface structures (e.g. Whom did Sarah like?) were derived by transformation rules which moved constituents to new positions, sometimes adding structure, sometimes deleting it. According to Chomsky, mappings from deep to surface level preserve structure. Moved items (like ' whom ') leave traces at Surface-structure to mark their original positions (e.g. direct object) at Deep-structure.

The presence of traces indicate that Surface-structures are not of surface character: they are shallow structures occurring just below the level of perceived speech. Surface-structures or logical forms replace Deep-structures to become the levels where semantic interpretation occurs[10].

Let us now have a closer look at one concrete example:

5.) Children are hard to please

When we try to analyse it in its surface structure, then the subject is "children" and the infinitive "to please" is the complement of "hard". But in its deep structure, "are hard" would have as its subject a subordinate sentence in which "children" is the object of "please": thus, in outline, S [please children] is"hard".

In his essay and analysis of gerunds and derived nominals, Chomsky decides to consider only the lexicalist approach and lets the transformationalist approach aside.

[...]


[1] Chomsky, Noam, "Remarks on Nominalization" in R. Jacobs and P. Rosenbaum eds., Readings in English Transformational Grammar. Ginn, Waltham, MA, 1970. (In the following: Chomsky ).

[2] Chomsky, p. 187

[3] Chomsky, p. 184

[4] Chomsky, p. 185

[5] see Handout University of Stuttgart, SoSe 2001, Hs Topics in the Syntax-Morphology Interface, Artemis Alexiadou, 02.05.2001 "Remarks on Nominalization", P. 1

[6] see Handout University of Stuttgart, SoSe 2001, Hs Topics in the Syntax-Morphology Interface, Artemis Alexiadou, 02.05.2001 "Remarks on Nominalization", P. 2

[7] see Handout University of Stuttgart, SoSe 2001, Hs Topics in the Syntax-Morphology Interface, Artemis Alexiadou, 02.05.2001 "Remarks on Nominalization", P. 2

[8] Compare: Handout University of Stuttgart, SoSe 2001, Hs Topics in the Syntax-Morphology Interface, Artemis Alexiadou, 02.05.2001 "Remarks on Nominalization", P. 2

[9] Compare: Handout University of Stuttgart, SoSe 2001, Hs Topics in the Syntax-Morphology Interface, Artemis Alexiadou, 02.05.2001 "Remarks on Nominalization", P. 2

[10] Compare: Chomsky, p. 185

Details

Pages
19
Year
2001
ISBN (eBook)
9783638129367
File size
416 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v4808
Institution / College
University of Stuttgart – Institute for Linguistics
Grade
1,3 (A)
Tags
Chomsky Remarks Nominalization Derived Gerundive Nominals Topics Syntax-Morphology Interface

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Title: Chomsky: Remarks on Nominalization: Derived and Gerundive Nominals