Please see the following:
We start with a sentence/clause like -
Mr Wilkins is the oldest person in the village.
It seems like we can "transform" the clause using certain "grammatical rules":
Mr Wilkins is not the oldest person in the village. (Transformation: Insert the word "not" after the linking verb. Result/meaning achieved: Negation)
Is Mr Wilkins the oldest person in the village? (Transformation: Bring linking verb in front of the sentence, switch to question mark. Result/meaning achieved: Interrogative mood)
Mr Wilkins must be the oldest person in the village. (Transformation: Add modal verb "must". Result/meaning achieved: Speaker's certainty towards the statement.)
What's more, these rules can often be stated in very clear, unambiguous terms.
(1) Is there a formal term for this process in linguistics? (2a) Has anyone systematically studied the possibilities from this process, and more importantly, the meanings that might be achieved? (2b) Does the NSM have provisions for the sort of what can be said to be the "grammatical/structural meanings" that might be achieved from these transformations? I would envision such primitives as NEGATION, MUST-MODALITY, CAN-MODALITY, NUMBER-PLURAL etc. to be in this language. If no, has there been any effort to come up with such a metalanguage or anything similar. (3) Do studies on grammatical features deal with what I mentioned in (2a) and (2b)?
Looking for leads on the appropriate monographs, journal articles etc.