Transformational grammar is a form of language analysis that establishes a relationship with the different elements in the sentence of a language and makes use of rules or transformations to recognize these relationships.
Transformational grammar which is usually generative grammar describes a language with the help of transformational rules. It involves logical reasoning to understand fully the meaning of the selected words. As such transformational grammar goes a step ahead of structural grammar which focuses more on the sentence structures used for communication. Apart from the use of correct sentence structure, transformational grammar analyses the words with reference to its underlying thoughts. Transformational grammar employs most of the linguistic tools such as syntax and context to explore the possible meanings of words.
Transformational Grammar also known as Transformational Generative Grammar (TGG) refers to the theory of generative grammar of a natural language, developed by Chomsky. Transformational grammar is basically a theory to understand the processing of grammatical knowledge in the human brain. Noam Chomsky, the U.S. linguist, was the main propagator of transformational grammar in the 1960’s.His theory opposed the earlier theories of structuralism by rejecting the idea that each language is different fro the other. In fact transformational grammar analyses language on the basis of certain universal tenets in languages.
According to Chomskyan theory, transformational grammar involves two levels to represent the structure of sentences known as the “deep structure” and the “surface structure”. The “deep structure” implies a more abstract form underlying the structure of a sentence. It is represented by a “phrase structure tree” in which the abstract relations between words and phrases of a sentence are depicted in a “hierarchical tree diagram”. The “surface structure” refers to the actual form of the structure of a sentence used. Besides the two levels of sentence structure, transformational grammar consists of a body of formal rules to enable transforming deep structures to surface structures.
A phrase structure tree in transformational grammar is a diagrammatic representation of sentences distinguished by their syntactic characteristics. Thus we have verb phrases (VP), noun phrases (NP), prepositional phrases (PP) and so on. Most of the sentence structures in a language are governed by phrase structure rules. For example, sentences in English are governed by the rule that they should contain a Noun Phrase (NP) and a Verb Phrase (VP)
Transformational grammar is used routinely to understand the grouping of words in a particular context. For example look at the sentences, “John wrote a poem on the spring season” and “A poem on the spring season was written by John”. According to Chomsky these sentences originate from a deeper and more abstract grammatical structure. Transformational grammar explains how actual sentences evolve by manipulating the common form of sentence structures. A number of different theories have since evolved but they are all based on the Chomsky’s original theory of transformational grammar.