Structure - Deep and Surface

Consider the following sentence pairs:
  • "The cat chased the mouse."
  • "The mouse was chased by the cat."
  • "Where did John drive?"
  • "John drove (where)."

According to the transformational grammar, there is an abstract level of representation that underlies the syntactical structures of each pair member. For instance, the forms first and second sentences correspond to "surface structures." The linguist Noam Chomsky proposed that these surface structures are derived from a common underlying grammatical representation, called their "deep structure." Within the theory, their deep structure is represented in the form of a heirarchical tree depicting the grammatical relationships between the various constituents that make up the sentence, such as the noun phrases* "the cat" and "the mouse," and the verb phrases "chased" and "was chased ." The application of certain transformation rules to this tree produces the surface structures seen above.

See Also: transformational grammar, phrase structure tree, phrase structure rules, noun phrase (NP), verb phrase (VP).


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