I'm a little confused about the difference between P&P and GB.

This Wikipedia article suggests that they are the same as grammar frameworks, from what I understood:

Principles and parameters as a grammar framework is also known as government and binding theory. That is, the two terms principles and parameters and government and binding refer to the same school in the generative tradition of phrase structure grammars (as opposed to dependency grammars).

What does it mean that they are the same as grammar framework? What are the actual differences between them?

This Wikipedia article has the following hierarchy, which suggests that GB is a particular case of P&P. (And MP is a particular case of P&P.)

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At least that's how I interpret this hierarchy. If this is true, in what sense is GB a particular case of P&P?

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    Even though some linguists have been using GB and P&P interchangeably, the Principles and Parameters Theory is broader and as a matter of fact it encompasses GB. Haegeman 1994 (p. 3, ft. 1) herself mentions this in her famous textbook we all used. There is more than just government and binding in the P&P. Finally, Chomsky himself has written multiple times (e.g. Chomsky 1988, 1991), saying that GB theory is not an accurate term and it should have been abandoned. He has always referred to it as the P&P Theory (or approach).
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


This is a difficult history and sociology of the field question, fraught with personal opinions and revisionism. GB theory commenced with the (originally samizdat) publication of "The Pisa Lectures" in the late 70's and the 1981 general publication. Principles and Parameters is a term that was used later (Chomsky & Lasnik 1993) within that general syntactic approach. Any two consecutive publications by Chomsky could be taken to be mere technical elaborations, or substantial breaks in framework. IMO and that of most linguists, the Minimalist Program is a substantially different framework from GB (P&P). P&P adds something to GB, but isn't as large a break with prior Chomskian theories. This survey (if you can access it) will give the perspective of two practicioners within the theory – as such, they would support a "continuity of theories" analysis of the history.

I would not agree with the Wikipedia analysis of the history of generative grammar, for example, "the standard theory" refers to Chomsky's thinking in the early 70's and it was precede by "the Aspects model", which is the successor to Syntactic structures and I don't know how people talked about "prior generative theories" in 1963. "Transformational grammar" refers to Syntactic Structures up to ST, or EST (I can't really tell when actual rules fell from grace), and Minimalism is in no sense a variety of "Transformational Grammar".

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