[b-hebrew] Generation grammar and b-hebrew

dwashbur at nyx.net dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Jun 17 21:48:33 EDT 2010

On 17 Jun 2010 at 19:21, Eric Inman wrote:

> I'm happy to see that there has been work in the area of viewing
> grammar as
> something other than a binary operation.
> I agree that a generative grammar can be used for something other
> than
> defining the set of sentences that are valid in a given language.
> What I've
> seen described in the responses makes sense.

My own approach to generative grammar works at the clause level, where a clause is a 
single predicated statement (whether verbal or verbless in the  case of Hebrew).  I also use 
it to analyze at the phrase level: noun phrases, prepositional phrases etc.  To my mind, 
"sentence" is a fairly meaningless term, and so I avoid it when possible. I see the highest 
level as the verb phrase, which in my definition is more or less equivalent to a clause.  But 
it's useful for smaller segments as well.
> My next question is about word order. It seems like generative
> grammars
> would be easier to manage in languages where word order is fairly
> constrained, such as English, and harder to manage in languages
> where word
> order is more free, such as Greek. Where does Hebrew fall in this
> spectrum
> and how do you think that will effect the difficulty of coming up
> with a
> grammar?

At the clause level, the trick is to determine what the basal word order is, i.e. the starting 
point of phrase structure, and then what sorts of transformations are permitted for 
rearranging that order.  That's been a big part of my work in taking a transformational 
approach to BH.  It's the same for Greek, but since this is b-hebrew I won't go into that :-)  
(Plus, I haven't really explored it in Greek.)  It seems to me that's going to be the starting 
point for building a generative grammar of BH that has explanatory adequacy.

Dave Washburn


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