Prototype Theory and Hebrew Tense/Aspect

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at
Wed Dec 15 18:33:11 EST 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Washburn" <dwashbur at>
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 1999 10:42 PM

> A surface structure is realized, but it's not generated there.  Initial
> generation and subsequent movement take place below that, and
> this is where I'm talking about.
> > I would consider the real distinction between surface structure and
> > semantics to be between the forms that are found in the text, and the
> > meaning/function that they have in conveying the message.
> >
> > In this regards, surface structure is found at many levels:
> > morphemes/lexemes
> > morphology
> > syntax
> > discourse structures above the sentence
> Please define what you mean by "surface structure."  I get the
> feeling we're using this term two different ways.

Yes, I think we are.

Speaking (perhaps solely!) for myself: I see between grammar and semantics
two parallel hierarchies of structure.

Grammar starts with the morphemes and builds an hierarchy through
morphology, syntax, and discourse structures.

Semantics starts with concepts and builds propositions and arguments and

I use surface structure to refer to the forms that can be observed in the
actual text, which are essentially grammatical forms and structures.  With
respect to the related transformational structures posited by Generative
grammar as 'deep-structure', I consider to be merely ways of relating
certain alternative surface forms.  I do not consider so-called
'deep-structure' to be more basic than so-called 'surface-structure': do not
most 'deep-structure' forms appear as alternatives in the surface structure?

Although I have not studied Generative Semantics, I seem to recall that they
start with the presupposition that 'deep-structure' is closer to Semantic
structure than is surface structure.  I do not agree, but hold that the
relationship between syntax (in whichever of its surface-level related
instantiations) and semantics is arbitrary.

> > I might also ask, is not there meaning associated with the structure of
> > syntax?
> Depends on what you mean by "meaning."  I associate "meaning"
> with semantics: the ideas conveyed by words, phrases and
> clauses (on this see especially Jackendoff, "Semantics in
> Generative Grammar").  Syntax, by contrast, deals with force and
> connection: "force" being a category or form's essential purpose,
> especially as regards things like mode, and connection being the
> ways that clauses do or do not relate to one another in
> coordination, subordination, dependence, etc.

Here again, I see Semantics as extending beyond mere propositions, to the
formation of logical arguments and communications.  Coordination,
subordination, etc., permit the author/speaker to formulate his/her ideas
into these higher level semantic units.  Furthermore, the different
alternatives (such as coordination vs. subordination) permit certain
propositions to be highlighted for rhetorical purposes.

I hope we have clarified ourselves for each other!  I now (think I)
understand your grammatical orientation and your statements!

God Bless,
Joe Friberg

> Dave Washburn
> Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;
> give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.
>                                    Psalm 86:11
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