This material has been prepared by the students of Group A. (Based on Arregui 1996)


Structuralism and Generative Grammar

1.INTRODUCTION.

STRUCTURALISM: heterogeneous school of linguistics which was developed in Europe and America in the first half of the 20th Century. Two of the most prominent structuralist linguists are:

We will also pay attention to Chomsky's view of language and linguistics that differ from structuralist ideas.

2.STRUCTURALISM.

2.1.EUROPE: Saussure.

Saussure distingished in Linguistics between:

  1. LANGUE: socially shared system that makes production and comprehension possible.
    Two important points:
    1. It is a social institution: each langue as such is something external to all speakers, so that each speaker cannot change it.
    2. It is a system of sings that form structure. Each sign is defined by its relations with other elements of the structure.
  2. PAROLE: actual speech production. Apart from language, there are some other things that are involved in parole (the speaker's will, mood, tone, etc.).

LINGUISTICS should be concerned only with the study of langue because the study of parole requires the attention to other sciences such as psychology, physics or physiology. Even syntax is outside the domain of linguistics since a langue is a system of signs, and does not specify how those signs are combined in actual speech. Syntax would rather belong to parole, not to langue.

2.2. AMERICAN STRUCTURALISM : L. BLOOMFIELD

2.2.1.BEHAVIORISM AND SCIENCE

Behaviorism was a school of psychology. According to this school science can only deal with physical facts. Statements must be based on these physical characteristics. Thus, science must observe, describe physical facts and induce descriptive generalizations.

2.2.2. LANGUAGE : STIMULUS AND RESPONSE

Human behaviour is studied in terms of stimulus and response, consequently linguistic behaviour becomes also a pattern of stimulus and response, where language plays a mediating role.

2.2.3. THE METHOD AND LIMITATIONS

Behaviorist linguists start their studies by recording speech, and these samples will become the only basis for the study of language, in the form of sphich corpus. Speech will be divided into sound segments and they will observe these segments in their linguistic context. Finally, they will classify those segments according to their distribution. However, this method made the study of meaning very complex and probably outside the domain of linguistics, and this is the main behaviorist limitation.

2.3. AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN STRUCTURALISM

American and European structuralism had the same objective : describe and classify linguistic units, though they do not share the same perspective. European structuralists deal with Saussure's notion of langue, whereas Americans' perspective derived from the limitations of their behaviorist method.

3. GENERATIVE GRAMMAR vs STRUCTURALISM

There are two main differences between Structuralism -Saussure and Bloomfield- and Generative Grammar -Chomsky- in the study of language:

3.1 THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD USED IN LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

3.1.1 European Structuralism

The method that a science should follow is called Descriptive Grammar. It is based on observation

3.1.2 Generative Grammar

A science, according to Chomsky, must also explain the data.

The best way to do it is speculating with various hypothesis. Speculation is necessary since a single observation and description of data is not enough for the explanation of many facts about language at the levels of syntax, phonology and semantics.

3.2 THE CONCEPT OF LANGUAGE

3.2.1 European Structuralism

They are concerned with the function of language i.e. communication.

Saussure: langue is a social institution to communicate. Considering language as a conduct to communicate it is not possible to explain the problem of language acquisition.

3.2.2 Generative Grammar

Primarly concern with the knowledge of language and with the way it is represented in the mind.

Chomsky: language is the knowledge that enables to understand and produce complex grammatical relations.

3.3 CONCLUSION

Generative Grammar's main objective is the scientific explanation rather than the mere description of the complex grammar relations that conform a language and the problem of language acquisition.