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Abstract and Keywords

This sketch attempts to convey the magnitude of Chomsky’s contribution to linguistics by comparing his initial formulation of generative grammar with his structuralist predecessors’ approach to syntax and then comparing that formulation to the current perspective. In the intervening six decades, Chomsky: (a) constructed a formal theory of grammar and explored its foundations; (b) developed a cognitive/epistemological interpretation of the theory, leading to the biolinguistic perspective; (c) contributed major proposals for constraints on grammars resulting in a significant reduction in and simplification of the formal grammatical machinery; and (d) re-evaluated the theory of grammar in terms of language design, raising the possibility of empirical proposals about the language faculty as a biological entity with properties of economy, simplicity, and efficient computation. In redefining the science of language (a–d), Chomsky has wrought a revolution without precedent in the history of linguistics.

Keywords: transformational generative grammar, conditions on rules and representations, Principles and Parameters framework, I-language, Minimalist Program

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