Rection and attachment theory

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The Rektions- and attachment theory (. English Government and Binding Theory ), or shortly GB theory , describes a version of Noam Chomsky's syntax - model of generative grammar .

Like all syntax models in the Chomsky's tradition, the theory of rule and attachment is a constituent grammar (=  phrase structure grammar ; in contrast to a dependency grammar ). The term goes back to Chomsky's Lectures on Government and Binding published in 1981 . It describes the level of development of the theory in the 1980s.

The approach and its subsequent extensions were later referred to as the model of principles and parameters (P&P theory) (Chomsky & Lasnik 1993).

Goal setting

The main concern of the theory is the thesis that the grammar of human languages ​​is not organized in the form of a list of individual rules for individual constructions, but consists of a host of very general, independent conditions ("modules") that are contained in each individual sentence work together.

All those structures that are not filtered out as a violation by any of the conditions thus result as grammatically correct sentences. Examples of such modules result in particular from the eponymous theoretical components of the administration (e.g. from the case theory in the form of the so-called "case filter") and the attachment theory in the form of the principles of attachment.


The grammar model is divided into four sections, which can be divided into three levels when deriving a sentence:

  • the deep structure ( D structure , from deep structure )
  • the surface structure ( S structure , from Surface Structure )
  • the phonetic form (PF) and the logical form (LF), which together form a branch starting from the S structure.

The function of this level subdivision can be outlined as follows:

  • The D structure is a direct projection of information from the lexicon ; for example, it represents the assignment of predicates and their arguments (by assigning so-called theta roles ).
  • The S structure is an intermediate level derived from the D structure which z. B. is enforced by positioning rules that are related to the comparison of grammatical features, such as case assignment. The assignment of argument roles and the assignment of case characteristics thus result in two different modules (and can therefore be carried out independently of one another, in contrast to what is assumed in traditional grammar).
  • Both the phonetic form and the logical form take the S structure as their input. The phonetic form (PF) translates this into a phonetic realization (and is sometimes viewed as an extra-syntactic level). The logical form LF contains additional transformations through which the logical interpretation is prepared, e.g. B. so that the scope of quantifiers is clearly shown.

The three levels are related to each other and converted into each other by a transformation rule ("move α", ie by syntactic movement ). However, the properties assigned to the words of a language (in the lexicon) cannot be erased by transformations; this is guaranteed by the so-called projection principle .

Further developments

Chomsky later developed his theory further and partially replaced it in the 1990s with his minimalist program , which tries to motivate as many phenomena of syntax as possible from the interaction of the boundary conditions interpretation and phonetic form. However, the GB theory has remained important (cf. Poole 2011) as it contains the classic formulation of many theoretical problems and empirical observations, even if later syntax theories sometimes pursued a different explanation.


  • Noam Chomsky: Lectures on Government and Binding . Mouton de Gruyter, 1981 ISBN 3-11-014131-0 .
  • Noam Chomsky & Howard Lasnik: The theory of principles and parameters . In: Joachim Jacobs, Arnim von Stechow, Wolfgang Sternefeld & Theo Vennemann (eds.): Syntax: An international handbook of contemporary research , De Gruyter, Berlin 1993. (Reprinted also in Noam Chomsky: The Minimalist Program MIT Press, Cambridge (MA ) 1995. pp. 506-569).
  • PH Matthews: Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics . Oxford University Press 1997. (English)
  • Geoffrey Poole: Syntactic Theory . Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2011. ISBN 978-0230243941