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English Syntax – Summary Essay

1008 words - 5 pages

Grammar is traditionally divided into two sub-categories: morphology and syntax. Moprhology is the study of morphemes – smallest units of language that carry meaning – and how they are formed into words. Syntax is the study of the processes by which sentences are formed. Hereinafter, we shall take a look at the approach to grammar developed by Noam Chomsky.
According to Chomsky, the goal of the linguist is to determine what it is that native speakers know about their native language which enables them to speak and understand the language fluently. Chomsky contrasts two approaches to grammar – the traditional approach and the universal approach. While traditional grammar studies language in ...view middle of the document...

So how is it that we all possess an intrinsic knowledge of our language? The answer, for Chomsky, lies in the Language Faculty – a neuropsychological mechanism responsible for the acquisition of language, specific to humans only. The critial period for the development of the Language Faculty are the firs few years of a child's life, after which it is highly unlikely that a child will ever acquire a language to a native extent. The crucial element of language acquisition is linguistic experience, id.e. input. This is part of the Innanteness Hypothesis, which attempts to prove that all human beings are born with some extent of linguistic knowledge, regardless of intelligence or any other factor.
Since humans are biologically endowed with the language faculty which allows children to acquire any language as their native language, we can rightfully assume that it is part of the theory of Universal Grammar and it follows certain aspects of competence known without experience, which leads to the conclusion that some information about language are written in out genetic code. When attempting to determine the nature of the human language faculty, we are in fact trying to establish certain principles of Universal Grammas, or UG principles. One of the UG principles is called Locality Principle and it deals with the position of words within sentences. Universal grammar thus explain a child's rapid grammatical development as based on a universal set of innate grammatical principles which therefore do not have to be consciously acquired.
However, not all aspects of grammar are universal. Since grammatical learning does not involve those aspects of language which are thought universal, it focuses on the parameters of grammar which are specific to each language, and studies them in binarities. For example, French and Italian are null subject languages in which it is allowed to say (Parla italiano – Speaks Italian), while English is a non-null subject language, in which this sort of construction is not possible and a pronoun is obligatory.
Furthermore, the order of wh-words is different in Chinese and in English. This is called the...

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