The Transformation Model: A Crash Course
Noam Chomsky developed transformational grammar. This forms the basis of the NLP Meta-Model. A short introduction will explain the main ideas of the transformation model. There are a lot of rules in our language that are mainly determined by grammar. In English we distinguish three categories of rules: 1. Well-formedness, 2. Unit structure, 3. Logical contextual relationships.
Which of the following three sentences sound well-formed?
- Even professors have speech problems.
- Even professors have spotted blemishes.
- Even professors has speech problems.
The first sentence is well-formed, complete and grammatically correct.
The second sentence sounded well-formed, but the content is unclear - therefore we speak of a semantically misspelled sentence. (semantics = doctrine of the meaning of the words).
The third sentence is syntactically malformed, i.e., grammatically wrong. (syntax = sentence construction)
2. Unit structure:
Sentences can be subdivided into units that belong together. You can easily recognize this in the following sentence:
- The Maharajah of India believed the Maharani would eat.
“The Maharajah” and “of India” form a unity. They belong together. The “Maharaja” and the word “would” do not form a unity.
3. Logical contextual relationships
Whether a sentence is logical or not, whether it makes sense or not, is decided the feeling of the language. There are five criteria to decide if a sentence is logical or not:
(Whenever you hear a verb, you can determine what information is needed for the verb so that the entire sentence makes sense. We call this information “valence”.)
(Sentences can convey different contents.
Example: The investigation of police officers can be dangerous.
Meanings: a) The investigation conducted by police officers can be dangerous. b) Investigating the police can be dangerous.
(Sentences of like meanings, for example, Susanne looked for the address. Susanne looked up the address.)
- Relationship indices
(Indications of relationships between words. Example: My car is fantastic.)
(Sentences that provide additional information.
Example: My dog ran away. This sentence assumes I have a dog.)
The surface structure of a sentence is always what is literally said and can be represented in a structure tree (graphical representation of sentence structures). The words are grouped into units that belong together. Example: "The Meyer family bought a house." Here 3 units can be summarized, namely: The married couple Meyer / bought / a house. The deep structure is a complete, well-formed sentence. Example: "The Meyer family bought a house from their neighbors with money." A transformation is a transfer of the sentence from the deep structure to the surface structure. When a deep structure is linked to more than one surface structure, it is called synonymity transformation.