The Role of Categorial Syntax in Grammatical Theory

  • Renate Bartsch
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 43)


In his article ‘Some Linguistic Obstacles to Machine Translation’ (1960) Yehoshua Bar-Hillel dealt with the merits of categorial grammar for the analysis of certain kinds of simple sentences, the so-called kernel sentences, and with the shortcomings of categorial grammar in regard to more complex sentences. He followed Chomsky in that he proposed that categorial grammar “has to be supplemented by additional procedures, the so-called transformations” (Bar-Hillel 1960, p. 83). More than 10 years later the same stand was taken by David Lewis in his article ‘General Semantics’ (1972): “The time therefore seems ripe to explore categorially based transformational grammars, obtained by taking an Ajdukiewicz categorial grammar as base and adding a transformational component. So far as I know, this proposal has been made only once before (Lyons, 1966), but it seems an obvious one”. The motivation for the call for a transformational component is the same as in Bar-Hillel (1960). Lewis says very little about this component, only that he assumes that, if a problem arises in categorial grammar, transformations will handle it. Lewis puts one restriction on the transformational component: “In fact the only restriction I place on syntax is that transformational grammars should be categorially based”; what that means is obscured by the next sentence “In other words: a transformational component should operate on a set of categorial phrase markers representing a set of meanings generated by some lexicon” Lewis, (1972, p. 190).


Machine Translation Semantic Representation Word Order Lexical Item Prepositional Phrase 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renate Bartsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Universiteit van AmsterdamNetherlands

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