A generative parse tree: the sentence is divided into a noun phrase (subject), and a verb phrase which includes the object. This is in contrast to structural and functional grammar which consider the subject and object as equal constituents.
Generativists have created numerous theories to make the NP VP (NP) analysis work in natural language description. That is, the subject and the verb phrase appearing as independent constituents, and the object placed within the verb phrase. A main point of interest remains in how to appropriately analyse Wh-movement and other cases where the subject appears to separate the verb from the object. Although claimed by generativists as a cognitively real structure, neuroscience has found no evidence for it. In other words, generative grammar encompasses proposed models of linguistic cognition; but there is still no specific indication that these are quite correct.
There are a number of different approaches to generative grammar. Common to all is the effort to come up with a set of rules or principles that formally defines each and every one of the members of the set of well-formed expressions of a natural language. The term generative grammar has been associated with at least the following schools of linguistics:
Leonard Bloomfield, an influential linguist in the American Structuralist tradition, saw the ancient Indian grammarian Pāṇini as an antecedent of structuralism. However, in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Chomsky writes that "even Panini's grammar can be interpreted as" a fragment of a generative grammar, a view that he reiterated in an award acceptance speech delivered in India in 2001, where he claimed that "The first generative grammar in the modern sense was Panini's grammar".
Military funding to generativist research was influential to its early success in the 1960s.
Generative grammar has been under development since the mid 1950s, and has undergone many changes in the types of rules and representations that are used to predict grammaticality. In tracing the historical development of ideas within generative grammar, it is useful to refer to the various stages in the development of the theory:
Standard theory (1956–1965)
The so-called standard theory corresponds to the original model of generative grammar laid out by Chomsky in 1965.
A core aspect of standard theory is the distinction between two different representations of a sentence, called deep structure and surface structure. The two representations are linked to each other by transformational grammar.
Extended standard theory (1965–1973)
The so-called extended standard theory was formulated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Features are:
The minimalist program is a line of inquiry that hypothesizes that the human language faculty is optimal, containing only what is necessary to meet humans' physical and communicative needs, and seeks to identify the necessary properties of such a system. It was proposed by Chomsky in 1993.
Generative grammars can be described and compared with the aid of the Chomsky hierarchy (proposed by Chomsky in the 1950s). This sets out a series of types of formal grammars with increasing expressive power. Among the simplest types are the regular grammars (type 3); Chomsky claims that these are not adequate as models for human language, because of the allowance of the center-embedding of strings within strings, in all natural human languages.
At a higher level of complexity are the context-free grammars (type 2). The derivation of a sentence by such a grammar can be depicted as a derivation tree. Linguists working within generative grammar often view such trees as a primary object of study. According to this view, a sentence is not merely a string of words. Instead, adjacent words are combined into constituents, which can then be further combined with other words or constituents to create a hierarchical tree-structure.
The derivation of a simple tree-structure for the sentence "the dog ate the bone" proceeds as follows. The determinerthe and noun dog combine to create the noun phrasethe dog. A second noun phrase the bone is created with determiner the and noun bone. The verb ate combines with the second noun phrase, the bone, to create the verb phraseate the bone. Finally, the first noun phrase, the dog, combines with the verb phrase, ate the bone, to complete the sentence: the dog ate the bone. The following tree diagram illustrates this derivation and the resulting structure:
Such a tree diagram is also called a phrase marker. They can be represented more conveniently in text form, (though the result is less easy to read); in this format the above sentence would be rendered as:
[S [NP [D The ] [N dog ] ] [VP [V ate ] [NP [D the ] [N bone ] ] ] ]
Chomsky has argued that phrase structure grammars are also inadequate for describing natural languages, and formulated the more complex system of transformational grammar.
Noam Chomsky, the main proponent of generative grammar, believed to have found linguistic evidence that syntactic structures are not learned but ‘acquired’ by the child from universal grammar. This led to the establishment of the poverty of the stimulus argument in the 1980s. However, critics claimed Chomsky's linguistic analysis had been inadequate. Linguistic studies had been made to prove that children have innate knowledge of grammar that they could not have learned. For example, it was shown that a child acquiring English knows how to differentiate between the place of the verb in main clauses from the place of the verb in relative clauses. In the experiment, children were asked to turn a declarative sentence with a relative clause into an interrogative sentence. Against the expectations of the researchers, the children did not move the verb in the relative clause to its sentence initial position, but to the main clause initial position, as is grammatical. Critics however pointed out that this was not evidence for the poverty of the stimulus because the underlying structures that children were proved to be able to manipulate were actually highly common in children's literature and everyday language. This led to a heated debate which resulted in the rejection of generative grammar from mainstream psycholinguistics and applied linguistics around 2000. In the aftermath, some professionals argued that decades of research had been wasted due to generative grammar, an approach which has failed to make a lasting impact on the field.
The sentence from the study which shows that it is not the verb in the relative clause, but the verb in the main clause that raises to the head C°.
There is no evidence that syntactic structures are innate. While some hopes were raised at the discovery of the FOXP2gene, there is not enough support for the idea that it is 'the grammar gene' or that it had much to do with the relatively recent emergence of syntactical speech.
Neuroscientific studies using ERPs have found no scientific evidence for the claim that human mind processes grammatical objects as if they were placed inside the verb phrase. Instead, brain research has shown that sentence processing is based on the interaction of semantic and syntactic processing. However, since generative grammar is not a theory of neurology, but a theory of psychology, it is completely normal in the field of neurology to find no concreteness of the verb phrase in the brain. In fact, these rules do not exist in our brains, but they do model the external behaviour of the mind. This is why GG claims to be a theory of psychology and is considered to be real cognitively.
Generativists also claim that language is placed inside its own mind module and that there is no interaction between first-language processing and other types of information processing, such as mathematics.[b] This claim is not based on research or the general scientific understanding of how the brain works.
Chomsky has answered the criticism by emphasising that his theories are actually counter-evidential. He however believes it to be a case where the real value of the research is only understood later on, as it was with Galileo.
^Koerner 1978, p. 41f "it is worth noting that Chomsky cites Hjelmslev's Prolegomena, which had been translated into English in 1953, since the authors theoretical argument, derived largely from logic and mathematics, exhibits noticeable similarities. Cf. Chomsky's Syntactic Structures, which is based on the 1955 manuscript (Chomsky 1957:50), for a direct reference to Hjelmslev, and 115 f., the original  bibliography)."
^Smith 2002, p. 17 "the mind itself is not an undifferentiated general-purpose machine: it is compartmentalized in such a way that different tasks are subserved by different mechanisms. The mind is "modular." Sight and smell, taste and touch, language and memory, are all distinct from each other, from our moral and social judgment, and from our expertise in music or mathematics."
^Diller, Karl C.; Cann, Rebecca L. (2009). Rudolf Botha; Chris Knight (eds.). Evidence Against a Genetic-Based Revolution in Language 50,000 Years Ago. The Cradle of Language. Oxford Series in the Evolution of Language. Oxford.: Oxford University Press. pp. 135–149. ISBN978-0-19-954586-5. OCLC804498749.
^Carnie, Andrew (2013). Syntax. A Generative Introduction. Malden: MA: Blackwell. p. 9. ISBN9780470655313.
^Smith, Neil (2002). Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN0-521-47517-1.
^Schwarz-Friesel, Monika (2012). "On the status of external evidence in the theories of cognitive linguistics". Language Sciences. 34 (6): 656–664. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2012.04.007.
^Chomsky, Noam; Belletti, Adriana; Rizzi, Luigi (January 1, 2001). "Chapter 4: An interview on minimalism". In Chomsky, Noam (ed.). On Nature and Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 92–161. ISBN9780511613876. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
^Baroni, M., Maguire, S., and Drabkin, W. (1983). The Concept of Musical Grammar. Music Analysis, 2:175–208.
^Baroni, M. and Callegari, L. (1982) Eds., Musical grammars and computer analysis. Leo S. Olschki Editore: Firenze, 201–218.
Each category of languages, except those marked by a *, is a proper subset of the category directly above it.Any language in each category is generated by a grammar and by an automaton in the category in the same line.