Appendix A    The formal nature of language    

1. To have command of a language is to be able, in principle, to understand what is said and to produce a signal with an intended semantic interpretation. The issue in this appendix is developed based on this main spirit and principle. Chomsky tries to discover the relationship between the semantic representation and phonetic representation. In order to concentrate on this discussion, he takes three approaches:

universal phonetics, universal semantics, and universal syntax. These three are subparts for universal grammar. Then I just want to quote some main points in this appendix to make readers easily to grasp the core issue in this appendix.


Quotation1: Linguistic performance is, furthermore, governed by principles of cognitive structure.


Quotation2: The general theory of linguistic structure is concerned with discovering the conditions that any such grammar must meet.


Quotation3: A grammar generates a certain set of pairs (s, I), where s is a phonetic representation and I its associated semantic interpretation.


Quotation4: A central problem for psychology is to discover the characteristics of a system PM (perceptional mechanism) of this sort. The model PM incorporates the grammar G of a language. Both G and PM relate sound and meaning. G as a system of processes and rules that apply in a certain order to relate sound and meaning.


Quotation5: In this chapter, attention is focused on competence and the grammars that characterize it.


Quotation6: The grammar of any language contains devices that make it possible to form sentences of arbitrary complexity, each with its intrinsic semantic interpretation.


Quotation7: The examples proposed by Chomsky can be used as a basis for discovering his internalized grammar.


Quotation8: Linguistic data     AM      Grammar

  How the device AM selects a grammar will be determined by its internal structure, by the methods of analysis available to it, and the initial constraints that it imposes on any possible grammar.


Quotation9: We might describe both these attempts as concerned with the internal structure of the device AM, with the innate conception of ˇ§human languageˇ¨ that makes language acquisition possible.


Quotation 10: Our review of the general properties of language thus falls naturally into three parts: a discussion of universal phonetics, of universal semantics, and of the overarching system of universal grammar.


Quotation 11: The phonetic alphabet is based on a system of phonetic properties developed in terms of point and manner of articulation. In modern terms, it is analyzable as a set of distinctive features.


Quotation 12: We stress once again, however, that actual performance involve other factors beyond ideal phonetic representation.


Quotation 13: These primitive elements include rather, what have been called (phonetic) distinctive features, properties such as voicing, frontness-backness, stress, etc.


Quotation 14: Distinctive features are absolute in the sense that they are fixed for all languages. If phonetic representation is to provide sufficient information for identification of a physical signal, then specification of feature values must also be absolute.


Quotation 15: In addition to a system of distinctive features, a universal phonetic theory will also attempt to formulate certain laws that govern the permitted sequences and permitted variety of selection in a particular language.


Quotation 16: We might hope to establish general principles regarding the possible systems of concepts that can be represented in a human language and the intrinsic connections that may exist among them.


Quotation 17: Still taking a language to be a set of sentences, let us consider each abstract ˇ§sentenceˇ¨ to be a specific pairing of a phonetic representation with an abstract structure of some sort (let us call it a deep structure) that incorporates information relevant to semantic interpretation.


Quotation 18: The grammar of a language consists of a syntactic component, a semantic component, and a phonological component.


Quotation 19: The deep structure contains all information relevant to semantic interpretation; the surface structure, all information relevant to phonetic interpretation. Thus the grammar as a whole relates semantic and phonetic interpretations.


Quotation 20: In fact, I think that a reasonable explication of the term ˇ§semantic interpretationˇ¨ would lead to the conclusion that surface structure also contributes in a restricted but important way to semantic interpretation.


Quotation 21: Universal semantics and phonetics in the sense described earlier, will then be a part of universal grammar.


Quotation 22: It is tacitly presumed that the intelligent reader will use his ˇ§linguistic intuitionˇ¨ his talent, unconscious knowledge of universal grammar- to determine the regular structure from the presented examples and remarks.


Quotation 23: The fact that every language ˇ§makes infinite use of finite meansˇ¨ has long bee understood.


Quotation 24: The universal phonetic alphabet, each symbol being analyzed into distinctive features with specific values.


Quotation 25: What disturbed John was being disregarded by everyone

The entire sentence above can be regarded as a single matrix with the entries + and -. (these specifications given completely in terms of the + and ˇV values of features supplied by the universal phonetic system)


Quotation 26: Each sentence is classified in such a way as to distinguish it from all other sentences, and in such a way as to determine just how the rules of the phonological component assign specific positional phonetic values. The way + and ˇV to represent the value in each sentence.


Quotation 27: In a classificatory function are the distinctive features uniformly binary; only in the phonetic function do they receive a direct physical interpretation.


Quotation 28: By convention, when primary stress is assigned in a certain position, all other stresses are weakened.    Semantic representation

Quotation 29: Deep structure                  

                           Surface structure      phonetic representation


Quotations 30: Transformations not only convert a deep structure to a surface structure, but they also have ˇ§filtering effectˇ¨, ruling out certain potential deep structure as not well-formed.