Transformation (linguistics)

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In linguistics , more precisely in syntax theory , a transformation is a formal operation that converts one sentence structure into another. Within the generative transformation grammar , which was founded by Noam Chomsky , the application of transformations transforms the deep structure of a sentence into the surface structure . In older theories, such as Zellig S. Harris , transformations were formulated more as paraphrase relationships between specific linguistic expressions (i.e. surface structures).

Transformation grammars are relatively powerful tools for building syntactic structures that go beyond the pure structure description (phrase structure). Main types of transformations are motion and cancellation, with motion transformations playing a far more important role. See the article Movement (Linguistics) .

According to their proponents, transformations are enforced by phenomena of natural languages ​​such as the separate appearance of parts of sentences that belong together syntactically (“discontinuous constituents”). One example is the separation of verb and particle in the German statements; see under V2 position # Transformation grammar . However, transformations are not used by all syntax theories; various alternative methods have also been developed to deal with such dependencies over distance (an example is the head-driven phrase structure grammar ).


  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • Noam Chomsky: Syntactic Structures. The Hague 1957
  • Noam Chomsky: Lectures on Government and Binding. Dordrecht 1981
  • Wolfgang Sternefeld: Syntax. A morphologically motivated generative description of German . Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2006.

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Wiktionary: Transformation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations