Generative Semantics

Karim Bagha

Abstract


Generative semantics is (or perhaps was) a research program within linguistics, initiated by the work of George Lakoff, John R. Ross, Paul Postal and later McCawley. The approach developed out of transformational generative grammar in the mid 1960s, but stood largely in opposition to work by Noam Chomsky and his students. 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. This assumption, combined with a tendency to consider a wider rang of empirical evidence than Chomskyan linguists, lead generative semanticists to develop considerably more abstract and complex theories of deep structure than those advocated by Chomsky and his students. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, there were heated debates between generative semanticists and more orthodox Chomskyans. The generative semanticists lost the debate, in so far as their research program ground to a halt by the 1980s. 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. A number of ideas from later work in generative semantics have been incorporated into cognitive linguistics (and indeed into main stream Chomskyan linguistics, often without citation)

Full Text: PDF DOI: 10.5539/elt.v4n3p223

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English Language Teaching       ISSN 1916-4742 (Print)   ISSN  1916-4750 (Online)

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