Although my main interest is historical lingustics, I would also like to get a hint of the modern studies of syntax and generative grammar, and as far as I know, Chomsky is currently the most prominent figure in this field.

I have read something about his ideas of language being innate to human beings and also a book on the pretty same topic by Daniel Everett. ( actually his notions are more appealing to me)

I am looking for the most basic introductory book about generative grammar. Do you have any recommendations?

( I have Pinker's The Language Instinct still unread on my shelf but it doesn't cover this topic, if I am correct )

  • 1
    Cook and Newson - Chomsky's Universal Grammar: An Introduction. – WavesWashSands Aug 15 '15 at 15:30
  • 1
    Which Chomskyan linguistics do you mean? There are several different Chomskyan theories, none of which has ever died a natural death, and all of which have produced introductory textbooks -- sort of like Freudian psychologies. Dan Everett's ideas are more appealing to a lot of linguists, because there is no actual evidence for UG; only arguments that rely on presuppositions. Though not everybody is happy with Everett's theory, either; he's too functionalist to suit some linguists. – jlawler Aug 15 '15 at 15:38
  • 1
    My knowledge on chomskyan theories ends with the Wikipedia article of UG and LAD, so unfortunately I can't even specify what branch of his notions I meant in the question. I want to know what does it mean when I encounter the term chomskyan linguistics. As I stated before, right now, my main interest is comparative IE studies but I just feel a little bit incomplete as a beginner linguist having almost non existent knowledge about Chomsky's influence. – czypsu Aug 15 '15 at 16:02
  • 1
    Actually, that's the safest position to take. People who take Chomskyan linguistics seriously usually mean different things -- and make different presuppositions about them, so it can be very confusing to a beginner. It's like arguing which particular sect of Christianity one should join, and which sacred liturgical language one should study. If you can get hold of it, I would recommend Jim McCawley's The Syntactic Phenomena of English as an example of Chomskyan linguistics, and a readable one at that. – jlawler Aug 15 '15 at 17:11
  • Ok. Thank you for your help. I treat that as an answer and consider the question closed. – czypsu Aug 15 '15 at 19:06

The current generative (Chomskyan) approach to syntax is known as the minimalist program. If you want a rigorous introduction to this formalism, you should check Understanding Minimalism (2005) by Norbert Hornstein, Jairo Nunes, Grohmann. This text builds heavily on the Principles and Parameters approach to Government and Binding theory. If you are not familiar with GB, you might want to check out Core Syntax (2003) by David Adger - very readable, but not very good at dealing with 'meta-syntax' (e.g. logical form, spell out, phonetic form). So if you want to make a thorough commitment to the generative framework, Hornstein is preferable. If you want to begin with GB, definitely go with Carnie's Syntax: A Generative Introduction (2012).

Generative grammar is concerned with modeling the human language faculty as a computational system, and by computational we really mean in the formal sense described by Church, Turing, and Kleene. Hence, you may want to explore the theoretical backdrop against which generative grammar was created. To do this, open any introductory computability theory text and read the sections on finite automata, formal grammars, and Turing computability or you can check out Barbara Partee's Mathematical Methods in Linguistics (1990).

  • Thanks. I sometimes read a blog where Norbert posts, hopefully this will help me to better understand what he's talking about in some of the more technical posts. facultyoflanguage.blogspot.com – sumelic Aug 16 '15 at 8:23

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.