The first part of this whig history is here
kinds of rules and interactions do NL Gs contain?
Work in the first period involved detailed investigations of
the kinds of rules that particular Gs have and how they interact.
Many different rules were investigated:
movement rules, deletions rules, phrase structure rules and binding rules to name
four. And their complex modes of interaction were limned. Consider some
Recall that one of the central facts about NLs is that they
contain a practically infinite number of hierarchically organized objects.
They also contain dependencies defined over
the structures of these objects. In early GG, phrase structure (PS) rules recursively
specified the infinite class of well-formed structures in a given G. Lexical
insertion (LI) rules specified the class of admissible local dependencies in a given
G and transformational (T) rules specified the class of non-local dependencies
in a given G.
Let’s consider each in turn.
PS rules are recursive and their successive application
creates bigger and bigger hierarchically organized structures on top of which LI
and T rules operate to generate other dependencies.
(6) provides some candidate phrase PS rules:
These four rules suffice to generate an unbounded number of
Thus sentences like John kissed Mary
has the structure in (7) generated using rules (6a,b,c).
N] aux [VP
LI-rules like those in (8) insert terminals into these
structures yielding the structured phrase marker (PM) in (9):
John ] [aux
PMs like (9) code for local inter-lexical dependencies as
well. Note that replacing kiss
yields an unacceptable sentence:
*John arrived Mary
. The PS rules can
generate the relevant structure (i.e. (7)), but the LI rules cannot insert arrive
in the V
position of (7) because arrive
is not lexically marked as transitive. In other words, NP^kiss^NP
is a fine local dependency, but NP^arrive^NP
Given structures like (9), T-rules can apply to rearrange
them thereby coding for a variety of non-local dependencies.
What kind of dependencies? The unit of transformational analysis in early GG
was the construction. Some examples include: Passive, WH questions, Polar
questions, Raising, Equi-NP Deletion (aka: Control), Super Equi,
Topicalization, Clefting, Dative Shift (aka: Double Object Constructions),
Particle shift, There
(aka: Existential Constructions), Reflexivization, Pronominalization, Extraposition,
among others. Though the rules fell into some natural formal classes (noted
below), they also contained a great deal of construction specific information,
reflecting construction specific morphological peccadillos. Here’s an
Consider the Passive rule in (10). ‘X’/’Y’ in (10) are
variables. The rule says that if you can factor a PM into the parts on the left
(viz. the structural description) you can change the structure to the one on
the right (the structural change).
Applied to (9), this yields the derived phrase marker (11).
Mary ] [aux
past] be+en [VP
kiss] by [NP
Note, the rule codes the fact that what was once the object
is now a derived subject.
Despite this change in position, Mary
is still the kisee. Similarly, John
the former subject of (9) and the kisser is now the object of the preposition by
, and still the kisser.
Thus, the passive rule in (10) codes the fact
Mary was kissed by John
and John kissed Mary
have a common thematic
structure as both have an underlying derivation which starts from the PM in (9).
In effect, it codes for non-local dependencies, e.g. the one between Mary
The research focus in this first epoch was on carefully
describing the detailed features of a variety of different constructions,
rather than on factoring out their common features.
Observe that (10) introduces new expressions into the PM (e.g. be+en, by
), in addition to rearranging
the nominal expressions. T-rules did quite a bit of this, as we shall see
below. What’s important to note for current purposes is the division of labor
between PS-, LI- and T-rules. The first generates unboundedly many hierarchical
structures, the second “chooses” the right ones for the lexical elements involved
and the latter rearranges them to produce novel surface forms that retain
relations to other non-local (e.g. adjacent) expressions.
T-rules, despite their individual idiosyncrasies, fell into a
few identifiable formal families. For example, Control constructions are
generated by a T-rule (Equi-NP deletion) that deletes part of the input
structure. Sluicing constructions also delete material but, in contrast to
Equi-NP deletion, it does not require a PM internal grammatical trigger (aka,
antecedent) to do so. Movement rules (like Passive in (11) or Raising)
rearrange elements in a PM. And T-rules that generate Reflexive and Bound
Pronoun constructions neither move nor delete elements but replace the lower of
two identical lexical NPs with morphologically appropriate formatives (as we
In sum, the first epoch provided a budget of actual examples
of the kinds of rules that Gs contain (i.e. PS, LI and T) and the kinds of
properties these rules had to have to be capable of describing recursion and
the kinds of dependencies characteristically found within NLs. In short, early
GG developed a compendium of actual G rules in a variety of languages.
Nor was this all. Early GG also investigated how these
different rules interacted. Recall, that one of the key features of NLs is that
they include effectively unbounded hierarchically organized objects.
This means that the rules talk to one another
and apply to one another’s outputs to produce an endless series of complex
structures and dependencies. Early GG started exploring how G rules could
interact and it was quickly discovered how complex and subtle the interactions
could be. For example, in the Standard Theory, rules apply cyclically and in a
certain fixed order (e.g. PS rules applying before T rules). Sometimes the
order is intrinsic (follows from the nature of the rules involved) and
sometimes not. Sometimes the application of a rule creates the structural conditions
for the application of another (feeding) sometimes it destroys the structures
These rules systems
can be very complex and these initial investigations gave a first serious taste
of what a sophisticated capacity natural language competence was.
It is worth going through an example to see what we have in
mind. For illustration, consider some binding data and the rules of Reflexivization
and Pronominalization, and their interactions with PS rules and T rules like
Lees-Klima (LK) (1963) offered the following two rules to
account for an interesting array of binding data in English.
The proposal consists of two rules, which
must apply when they can and are (extrinsically) ordered so that (12) applies
X-NP1- Y- NP2 - Z à X- NP1-Y-
(Where NP1=NP2, pronoun has the phi-features of NP2, and NP1/NP2 are in the
(Where NP1=NP2 and pronoun has the phi-features of NP2
As is evident, the two rules have very similar forms. Both
apply to identical NPs and morphologically convert one to a reflexive or
pronoun. (12), however, only applies to nominals in the same simplex clause,
while (13) is not similarly restricted. As (12) obligatorily applies before (13),
reflexivization will bleed the environment for the application of
pronominalization by changing NP2
to a reflexive (thereby rendering
the two NPs no longer “identical”).
of this ordering is that Reflexives and (bound) pronouns (in English) must be in
illustration should make things clear. Consider the derivation of (14a).
It has the underlying form (14b). We can
factor (14b) as in (14c) as per the Reflexivization rule (12). This results in
converting (14c) to (14d) with the surface output (14e) carrying a reflexive
interpretation. Note that Reflexivization codes the fact that John
is both washer and washee, or that John
non-locally relates to himself
What blocks John likes
with a similar reflexive reading, i.e. where John
is co-referential with him
To get this structure Pronominalization must apply to (14c).
However, it cannot as (12) is ordered before
(13) and both rules must apply when they can apply.
But, once (12) applies we get (14d), which no
longer has a structural description amenable to (13). Thus, the application of
(12) bleeds that of (13) and John likes
with a bound reading cannot be derived, i.e. there is no licit
grammatical relation between John
This changes in (15). Reflexivization cannot apply to (15c)
as the two John
s are in different
clauses. As (12) cannot apply, (13) can (indeed, must) as it is not similarly
restricted to apply to clause-mates. In sum, the inability to apply (12) allows
the application of (13). Thus does the LK theory derive the complementary
distribution of reflexives and bound pronouns.
believes that Mary washed *himself/him
believes that Mary washed John
believes that Mary washed him
There is one other feature of note: the binding rules in
(12) and (13) also effectively derive a class of (what are now commonly called)
principle C effects given the background assumption that reflexives and
pronouns morphologically obscure an underlying copy of the antecedent. Thus,
the two rules prevent the derivation of structures like (16) in which the bound
reflexive/pronoun c-commands its antecedent.
thinks that John1
The derivation, of these principle C effects, is not particularly
The rules derive the effect by
stipulating that the higher of two identical NPs is retained while the lower
one is morphologically reshaped into a reflexive/pronoun.
The LK theory can also explain the data in (17) in the
context of a G with rules like Raising to Object in (18).
believes that he1
(where C is Ø and non-finite)
If (18) precedes (12) and (13) then it cannot apply to raise
the finite subject in (19) to the matrix clause. This prevents (12) from
applying to derive (17a) as (12) is restricted to NPs that are clause-mates. But,
as failure to apply (12) requires the application of (13), the mini-grammar
depicted here leads to the derivation of (17b).
believes C John1
Analogously, (12), (13) and (18) also explain the facts in
(20), at least if (18) must apply when it can.
to be intelligent
to be intelligent
The LK analysis can be expanded further to handle yet more
data when combined with
other rules of G. And this is exactly the point: to
investigate the kinds of rules Gs contain by seeing how their interactions
derive non-trivial linguistic data sets. This allows us to explore what kinds
of rules exist (by proposing some and seeing how they work) and what kinds of
interactions rules can have (they can feed and bleed one another, then are
The LK analysis illustrates two important features of these
early analyses. First, it (in combination with other rules) compactly
summarizes a set of binding “effects,” patterns of data concerning the relation
of anaphoric expressions to their antecedents in a range of phrasal
configurations. It doesn't outline all
the data that we now take to be relevant to binding theory (e.g. it does not
address the contrast in John1’s
mother likes him/*himself1
), but many of the data points
discussed by LK have become part of the canonical data that any theory of
Binding is responsible for.
complementary distribution of reflexives and (bound) pronouns in these
sentential configurations is now a canonical fact that every subsequent theory
of Binding has aimed to explain. So too the locality required between
antecedent and anaphor for successful reflexivization and the fact that an
anaphor cannot c-command the antecedent that it is related to.
The kinds of the data LK identifies is also noteworthy.
From very early on, GG understood that both
positive and negative data are relevant for understanding how FL is
Positive data is another
name for the “good” cases (examples like (14e) and (15e)), where an anaphoric
dependency is licensed. Negative data are the * cases (examples like (17a) and
(20b)) where the relevant dependency is illicit.
Grammars, in short, not only specify what can
be done, they also specify what cannot
be. GG has discovered that
negative data often reveals more about the structure of FL than positive data
Second, LK provides a theory
of these effects in the two rules (12) and (13).
As we shall see, this theory was not
retained in later versions of GG.
The LK account relies on machinery (obligatory rule application, bleeding and
feeding relations among rules, rule ordering, Raising to Object, etc.) that is
replaced in later theory by different kinds of rules with different kinds of
properties. The rules themselves are also very complex (e.g. they are
extrinsically ordered). Later approaches to binding attempt to isolate the
relevant factors and generalize them to other kinds of rules. We return to this
The distinction between “effects” and “theory” is an
important one in what follows.
changed over the years, discovered effects have been largely retained but
detailed theory intended to explain these effects has often changed.
This is similar to what we observe in the mature sciences (think Ideal Gas Laws
wrt Thermodynamics and later Statistical Mechanics). What is clearly
cumulative in the GG tradition
is the conservation of discovered effects. Theory changes, and deepens. Some
theoretical approaches are discarded, some refashioned and some resuscitated
after having been abandoned. Effects, however, are conserved and a condition of
theoretical admissibility is that the effects explained by earlier theory,
remain explicable given newer theoretical assumptions.
We should also add, that for large stretches of theoretical
time, basic theory has also been conserved. However, the cumulative nature of
GG research is most evident in the generation and preservation of the various discovered
effects. With this in mind, let’s list some of the many discovered till now.