Generative semantics is (or perhaps was) a research program within linguistics, initiated by the work of various early students of Noam Chomsky: John R. Ross, Paul Postal and later James McCawley. Linguistics is the scientific study of Language, encompassing a number of sub-fields Avram Noam Chomsky (noʊm ˈtʃɑmski born December 7 1928 is an American linguist, Philosopher, cognitive scientist, Political John Robert "Haj" Ross (born May 7, 1938 in Boston, Massachusetts) is a linguist who played a part in the development of Paul M Postal (born November 10, 1936 in Weehawken, New Jersey) is an American linguist and member of the faculty of New York James D McCawley (born March 30, 1938 in Glasgow, Scotland; died April 10, 1999 in Chicago, IL) George Lakoff was also instrumental in developing and advocating the theory. "Lakoff" and "Professor Lakoff" redirect here The approach developed out of transformational generative grammar in the mid 1960s, but stood largely in opposition to work by Noam Chomsky and his later students. In Linguistics, a transformational grammar, or transformational-generative grammar ( TGG) is a Generative grammar, especially of a Natural The 1960s decade refers to the years from the beginning of 1960 to the end of 1969 Avram Noam Chomsky (noʊm ˈtʃɑmski born December 7 1928 is an American linguist, Philosopher, cognitive scientist, Political The nature and genesis of the program are a matter of some controversy and have been extensively debated. Generative semanticists took Chomsky's concept of Deep Structure and ran with it, assuming (contrary to later work by Chomsky and Ray Jackendoff) that deep structures were the sole input to semantic interpretation. In Linguistics, and especially the study of Syntax, the deep structure of a linguistic expression is a theoretical construct that seeks to unify several related structures Ray Jackendoff (born January 23, 1945) is an American Linguist. Semantics is the study of meaning in communication The word derives from Greek σημαντικός ( semantikos) "significant" from This assumption, combined with a tendency to consider a wider range of empirical evidence than Chomskian linguists, led generative semanticists to develop considerably more abstract and complex theories of deep structure than those advocated by Chomsky and his students — and indeed to abandon altogether the notion of “deep structure” as a locus of lexical insertion. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, there were heated debates between generative semanticists and more orthodox Chomskians. This article is about the Decade 1970-1979 For the Year 1970 see 1970. The generative semanticists lost the debate, insofar as their research program ground to a halt by the 1980s. The 1980s was the decade spanning from January 1 1980 to December 31 1989. However, this was in part because the interests of key generative semanticists such as George Lakoff had gradually shifted away from the narrow study of syntax and semantics. "Lakoff" and "Professor Lakoff" redirect here In Linguistics, syntax (from Ancient Greek grc συν- syn-, "together" and grc τάξις táxis, "arrangement" is the Semantics is the study of meaning in communication The word derives from Greek σημαντικός ( semantikos) "significant" from A number of ideas from later work in generative semantics have been incorporated into cognitive linguistics (and indeed into mainstream Chomskian linguistics, often without citation). In Linguistics and Cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL refers to the school of linguistics that understands language creation learning and usage
The controversy surrounding generative semantics stemmed in part from the competition between two fundamentally different approaches to semantics within transformational generative syntax. Semantics is the study of meaning in communication The word derives from Greek σημαντικός ( semantikos) "significant" from The first semantic theories designed to be compatible with transformational syntax were interpretive. Syntactic rules enumerated a set of well-formed sentences paired with syntactic structures, each of which was assigned an interpretation by the rules of a separate semantic theory. This left syntax relatively (though by no means entirely) “autonomous” with respect to semantics, and was the approach preferred by Chomsky.
In contrast, generative semanticists argued that interpretations were generated directly by the grammar as deep structures, and were subsequently transformed into recognizable sentences by transformations. This approach necessitated more complex underlying structures than those proposed by Chomsky, and more complex transformations as a consequence. Despite this additional complexity, the approach was appealing in several respects. First, it offered a powerful mechanism for explaining synonymity. In his initial work in generative syntax, Chomsky motivated transformations using active/passive pairs such as “I hit John” and “John was hit by me”, which despite their identical meanings have quite different surface forms trace theory. In Transformational grammar, a trace is an empty (phonologically null category that occupies a position in the syntactic structure. Generative semanticists wanted to account for all cases of synonymity in a similar fashion — an impressively ambitious goal before the advent of more sophisticated interpretive theories in the 1970s. Second, the theory had a pleasingly intuitive structure: the form of a sentence was quite literally derived from its meaning via transformations. To some, interpretive semantics seemed rather “clunky” and ad-hoc in comparison. This was especially so before the development of
^ There is little agreement concerning the question of whose idea generative semantics was. All of the people mentioned here have been credited with its invention (often by each other).
^ Strictly speaking, it was not the fact that active/passive pairs are synonymous that motivated the passive transformation, but the fact that active and passive verb forms have the same selectional requirements. For example, the agent of the verb kick (i. e. the thing that's doing the kicking) must be animate whether it is the subject of the active verb (as in "John kicked the ball") or appears in a by phrase after the passive verb ("The ball was kicked by John").