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Subject: Syntax
Question: Is Transformational Generative Grammar by Noam Chomsky applicable to AAVE (African American Vernacular English? I want to make a thesis for my Bachelor degree. The research question is: What is the difference between standard English and Ebonics using Transformational Generative Grammar? I heard that TGG cannot be applied in vernacular language or dialect. Thank you if you are willing to answer this. Sincerely, Trisha
Reply: Dear Trisha, There are many, many different syntactic theories that are Transformational, Generative, and by Noam Chomsky, and all of them are theoretically intended to apply to any language, including AAVE. Most of them have not been applied, however, because there are so many of them and they change so fast. Syntactic theories like these differ in what assumptions they make about how humans speak and what are good ways of representing these assumptions in language descriptions. All of the T, G, by NC theories boil down to certain formal conventions, most of which are irrelevant for practical language description. Furthermore, anything dealing with similarities and differences between AAVE and white-bread American English has to start from the sociolinguistic parameters of the lects concerned. So, probably what you should look at first is Sociolinguistic accounts of AAVE and American English syntactic variations, which are usually stated in some relevant transformational-generative theory, using only the practical parts. You can pick up the details you need as you confront the data, which is, after all, the important thing; theories come and go, but data is data and has to be accounted for. I'm neither a sociolinguist nor a specialist in TG-NC grammars, so I will leave the details of what to look for and which stuff to read first to be filled in by my colleagues here. Until they do, however, google "William Labov", "John Rickford", "Walt Wolfram", "Dennis Preston", "Penelope Eckert", and "Roger Shuy". All of these linguists have written extensively and enlighteningly on this and other topics. Good luck on your research.
Reply From: John M. Lawler      click here to access email
Date: 29-Oct-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Syntax    Nancy J. Frishberg     (30-Oct-2012)
  2. Re: Syntax    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (08-Nov-2012)
  3. Re: Syntax    Norvin Richards     (30-Oct-2012)

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