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Volume XXXIV, Nos. 3 & 4, Fall/Winter 2003

Jerrold J. Katz and Paul M. Postal. An Integrated Theory of

Linguistic Descriptions (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1964).

Before Minimalism, before the Principles and Parameters of Government and

Binding, and before X-Bar Theory and Extended Standard Theoryeven before
a standard theory was standardized with Chomskys Aspects of the Theory of
Syntax1there was Katz and Postals An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Descrip-
tions.2 Before the linguistic wars of generative semantics, and long before more
recent attempts to incorporate generative linguistics within developmental, evo-
lutionary, and cognitive psychology generally, Jerrold Katz and Paul Postal set
out to achieve the first major synthesis within generative linguistics by integrat-
ing a framework for semantics with the novelty of transformational grammar.
Originally published as Special Technical Report Number 9 of the Research
Laboratory of Electronics through the auspices of the MIT Press Research
Monograph series, the monograph was written at a time when the basic genera-
tive relationship between syntax and semantics was terra incognita, without the
sexton lines, fissures, and even fractures that would make for later border dis-
putes. Rather, the landscape of generative linguistics, having only been recently
discovered as it were, remained largely uncharted territorya linguistic
Louisiana Purchase of sorts gifted by none other than Chomsky himself.
Now some forty years under development, the linguistics pursued by Katz and
Postal takes us back to a time when many issues in transformational syntax were
just being formulated, nonetheless resolved (as a few contemporaneous remarks

I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Douglas Lackey for the opportunity to relive these
issues in linguistics, having missed them first time around by several decades; my thanks to Profes-
sors Marcel den Dikken and Robert Fiengo for helpful comments while preparing this review; and
my respect for the late Professor Katz and his lasting contributions to linguistics and the philosophy
of language.
N. Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1965).
Page and chapter numbers in text refer to this title unless otherwise noted.


by fellow linguists reproduced below help to illustrate). In their preface, Katz and
Postal explain that the major aim of their research is to provide an adequate
means of incorporating the grammatical and the semantic descriptions into one
integrated description (x), and in the process, succeeded in charting a future for
syntax at the dawn of the Chomskyan era in linguistics. Taking the account of
semantics developed by Katz and Fodor in their The Structure of a Semantic
Theory3 and the conception of generative grammar proposed by Chomsky in the
late 1950s and developed in the early 1960s, Katz and Postal set out to define the
elementary interface between syntax and semantics.
Indeed, An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Descriptions addresses topics so
basic to linguistic theory that they are easily forgotten or perhaps too easily dis-
missed. What is the relationship between syntax and semantics? How do syntac-
tic transformations relate to sentential meaning, and in particular, what semantic
effects, if any, do transformations have? How should the linkage between seman-
tic and syntactic structures be described? In a position as controversial as it was
simple and methodologically a priori (32), Katz and Postal resolve the seman-
ticsyntactic interface in one direction. Syntactic transformations do not affect
meaning, a claim that would soon culminate in the Katz-Postal Hypothesis or
Katz-Postal Principle: the application of transformational rules to deep struc-
ture preserves meaning. And this position, for all the heat it generated between
the generative semantics of Lakoff4 and McCawley5 and the interpretative
semantics of Chomsky6 and Jackendoff,7 would become standard linguistic
theory, superseded only by successive developments internal to the growth of
Chomskyan linguistics.8

J. Katz and J. Fodor, The Structure of a Semantic Theory, Language 39 (1963): 170210.
G. Lakoff, On Generative Semantics. Semantics, ed. D. Steinberg and L. Jakobovitz. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1971; pp. 23296.
J. McCawley, The Role of Semantics in a Grammar, Universals in Linguistic Theory. ed. E. Bach
and R. Harms. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968; pp. 12469.
N. Chomsky, Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar. The Hague: Mouton, 1972.
R. Jackendoff, Semantic Interpretation in Generative Grammar (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972).
In addition to precipitating the contentious debates concerning the correct formulation of deep struc-
ture semantics and its relation to transformations, the Katz-Postal principle itself is a product of an
intercine history. As early as 1960 Fodor had actually argued that most transformations do affect
meaning. In response Katz argued that many transformations do not. Joining forces, Katz and Fodor
(The Structure of a Semantic Theory) would argue that most, and perhaps all, transformations
have no effect on meaning. With the publication of An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Descrip-
tions, Katz and Postal bring this claim to its sharpest conclusion. See J. Staal, Review of An
Integrated Theory of Linguistic Descriptions, Foundations of Language 1 (1965): 13354, for dis-
cussion and references for this prehistory of the Katz-Postal principle and, of course, J. J. Katz,
Interpretive Semantics vs. Generative Semantics, Foundations of Language 6 (1970): 22059,
for a forceful exposition regarding the interpretive versus generative semantic dispute.


Central to these discussions regarding the effects of transformations on seman-

tic interpretation was, of course, the relationship between simple (kernel to use
an antiquated term) declarative sentences and their corresponding passive, imper-
ative, interrogative, and negative sentences. Take, for example, the passive in
English. Assuming that active and passive sentences are semantically equivalent,
the surface differences regarding the syntactic displacement of the same thematic
roles within the sentence can be explained in terms of a transformation that
derives the passive surface form from an active form. Take the example of this
pair of sentences:

(1) John kissed Mary.

(2) Mary was kissed by John.

They do not appear to differ in meaning despite obvious differences in their

surface syntax; it would seem that at least some syntactic distortions have no
semantic effects. Indeed, both sentences have the same meaning because they are
arguably really the same sentence: two superficially distinct sentences created
by a semantically inert rule that stylistically converts a syntactically active sen-
tence into its corresponding passive counterpart. The felt semantic equivalence
between active and passive sentences is to be explained by reference to the deep
(active) structure of the passive sentence, and popularized versions of transfor-
mational grammar reflect this intuition (as did some of Chomskys earliest writing
on the matter). Active and passive sentences receive the same semantic interpre-
tation because passive sentences are derived from active sentences through the
application of semantically inert syntactic rules. Indeed, consistent with the Katz-
Postal Principle, it would seem that optional singulary transformations (trans-
formations operating over simple nonembedded and noncoordinated sentence
structures) do not affect semantic interpretation, while obligatory transformations,
simply because they are grammatically forced, cannot.
Nevertheless, Katz and Postalthough sympathetic to this pattern of reason-
ingdo not, in the end, endorse this account of passivization. Rather than derive
passive sentences from an underlying active form, Katz and Postal propose to
independently derive, in parallel, passive sentences from underlying passive
forms and active sentences from underlying active forms, all while, of course,
maintaining the thesis that transformations do not affect meaning. So in addition
to arguing that interrogative, imperative, and, negative sentences each differ via
the addition of semantically active but phonologically unrealized morphemes
(i.e., Q, I, Neg) in underlying structure from their declarative forms, Katz and
Postal maintain that passive sentences must also differ in underlying structure,
thereby treating all of these singulary transformations uniformly. Moreover, Katz
and Postal will extend their thesis that transformations preserve meaning to cover


generalized transformations operating over more complex sentencessen-

tences that contain embedded clauses. In short, Katz and Postal argue that syn-
tactic transformations (whether singulary or generalized) never affect semantic
interpretation as transformations do not introduce any semantic elements and, as
such, only operate over underlying P-markers as represented in original base sen-
tences. Exploring and defending the full implications of this thesis is the purpose
of the monograph.
The monograph itself is composed of five chapters, with the burden of defend-
ing the semantic neutrality of all transformations borne by chapters 3 and 4 where
the system of projection rules responsible for generating well-formed syntactic
strings from underlying semantically interpretable phrase markers (P-markers) is
first described (ch. 3), and then a number of apparent counterexamples are then
thoroughly dissected and defused (ch. 4). Chapter 1 briefly discusses the imme-
diate background of generative syntax and semantic theory, and the significance
of the recently within-reach goal of providing an account of their integration.
Reviewing the now-classic themes of generative grammar (e.g., language versus
speech, competence versus performance, rule-governed productivity), Katz
and Postal conceive of the project to absorb semantic theory within generative
grammar as part of an overall aim of linguistic theory to reconstruct the princi-
ples underlying the ability of speakers to communicate with one another (1).
Writing in the early 1960s, the authors are aware of the novelty of such an
enterprise, remarking that The relations between the syntactic and semantic
components have not been explicated until recently because there has been no
framework within which to construct such an explication (2). Given the then-
current state of affairs, the authors complain that while both semantic and syn-
tactic work has been conducted, they both suffer from not being mutually
constrained, as no overall perspective capable of judging the adequacy of various
semantic and syntactic analyses independently of justifications internal to either
component has been developed. Optimistic of the possibility of unifying ongoing
syntactic research with the semantic framework provided by Katz and Fodor,9 the
authors observe that The situation in which the relations between the syntactic
and semantic components are inexplicable has, we think, fundamentally changed
now that there is an explicit proposal concerning the internal structure of
the semantic component, namely that made in The Structure of a Semantic
Theory (3).
In chapter 2 the syntactic and semantic components of grammar are introduced
and briefly described. The primary feature of the former are the syntactic
mechanisms that allow for grammatical transformations to act upon a structural

The Structure of a Semantic Theory.


description of sentences provided by semantically interpretable phrase markers.

Traditional bracketing phrase markers of the Sentence Noun phrase + Verb
Phrase and Verb Phrase Verb + Noun Phrase permit the construction of
recursive derivations and yield the conventional phrase structure trees whereby
terminal semantic nodes hang like leafs on a tree. Yet in addition to these basic
phrase structure rules operating over fixed strings of terminal underlying symbols,
the transformational component of the grammar also has the resources to operate
on these P-markers to produce new derived P-markers.
With respect to the semantic component of the grammar, the semantic rela-
tionships among words are classified according to their sense properties creating
the now-familiar Katzian family of semantic relations including anomaly, ambi-
guity, paraphrase, and synonymy (though analyticity, contradiction, and entail-
ment are explicitly left out as their definitions are, according to the authors, not
self-explanatory in the way that the other semantic properties are).
With these two components of the grammar defined, the first task of an inte-
grated account of transformational grammar is to provide a treatment of some rel-
atively simple grammatical facts regarding the surface distribution, deletion, and
addition of words and phrases. As chapter 3 details at length, various projection
rules systematically account for the semantic equivalence of syntactically distinct
sentences. In particular, the notion of singulary transformations is applied to a
variety of optional transformations that have no effect on the meaning of the sen-
tences when applied. In sentences with, for example, phrasal verbs, a simple trans-
formational rule inserting the object between a split phrasal verb relates these two

(3) The hostess rang up the bill.

(4) The hostess rang the bill up.

(The interesting discrepancy between the grammatical the hostess rang it up

and the ungrammatical *the hostess rang up it is briefly discussed in a foot-
note.) Alternative word orders of this type (what the authors call particle inver-
sion transformations), deletion transformations relating sentences of the form

(5) She reads as much as John reads.

(6) She reads as much as John.

and additive transformations relating declarative sentences to their negation,

(7) She reads.

(8) She does not read.


do not affect a change in meaning, evidence that the projection rules transform-
ing these sentences operate only on the underlying phrase markers rather than any
surface forms. The example of negation in (8) might seem like a poor choice to
illustrate meaning preserving transformations, as sentences (7) and (8) clearly do
differ in meaningthe latter being the negation of the former. The point of this
comparison, however, is to demonstrate that it is only the semantic addition of
not that affects the meaning of the sentence. After all, since the possibility of
a meaningful difference like that between a sentence and its negation depends on
the possibility of choosing a difference in underlying meaning, the choice of
an underlying structure with a Neg morpheme must be optional. But since the
appearance of the auxiliary do in a negative construction is not optional, it
follows that do, and obligatory rules generally, cannot bring about a change in
Unlike the addition of not, the addition of do is semantically inert as it
merely supports the third person present tense morpheme s. As the authors
point out, the ungrammatical sentence

(9) *She not read.

is nevertheless intelligible and understood to uniquely mean exactly what (8)

expresses. As Katz and Postal explain,

If do actually had meaning, [9] would differ in meaning from [8]. . . . [t]he fact that transfor-
mations sometimes introduce meaningless elements is another strong argument for the view that
P1 [projection rules] operate on underlying P-markers. For this condition automatically ensures
that these meaningless elements are never present in P-markers which are to be semantically inter-
preted. This makes it unnecessary to associate null semantic dictionary entries with elements like
do, which would be required if meaningless elements are present in P-markers which are to be
semantically interpreted. (45)

Moreover, though the authors do not make this point, the sentence

(10) *She do reads.

though ungrammatical, means the same as (7), requiring only the present tense
marker to be affixed to the auxiliary rather than the main verb to become
grammatical. In this way, sentences involving obligatory additions like do,
stylistic deletions, and alternative word orders, exemplify syntactic transforma-
tions where the semantic interpretation of the transformed sentence is identical
to the semantic interpretation provided by the underlying P-markers, an indica-
tion that transformations only act upon underlying P-markers and hence do not
affect meaning.


Nevertheless, there do exist singulary transformations that at least appear to

affect meaning, setting up the first challenge for Katz and Postal. Transforma-
tions involving the formation of questions, imperatives, and wh-movement seem-
ingly demand that the output P-markers receive a different semantic interpretation
from the P-markers serving as input, as the these types of sentences and their
counterparts obviously do semantically differ in being questions and imperatives
rather than declarative statements. Having already concluded that singulary trans-
formations involving word deletions, additions, and variations do not affect
meaning, Katz and Postal are faced with a methodological decision. Here is how
they frame this issue:

Thus there are three possibilities; first, that no correctly formulated singulary transformation has
an output with a semantic interpretation distinct from its input and that those transformations in
the literature which violate this claim are incorrect; second, that all singulary transformations affect
meaning and those in the literature which do not are incorrect; third, that some do and some do
not affect semantic interpretation and it is some specific feature of the particular transformations
that determines which do and which do not. (32)

Arguing from the a priori grounds of simplicity (though the form of this argu-
ment would equally suggest, reasons Staal10 in a review, that there are no animals
which are mammals either as the latter are a specific subclass of the former11),
Katz and Postal definitively side with the first alternative. As with passives noted
earlier, Katz and Postal exploit the technique of introducing individually distinct
question (Q) and imperative (I) morphemes into the underlying P-marker struc-
ture of question and imperative sentences so as to derive syntactic surface forms
semantically equivalent to the underlying P-markers. Indeed, after showing how
interrogatives, imperatives and negatives each differ in underlying structure to
match their distinct surface interpretations, Katz and Postal conclude that all sen-
tences with distinct meanings whose derivations involve only singulary transfor-
mations have distinct underlying P-markers (117). But now having demonstrated
that all singulary transformations preserve meaning (either merely by producing

Review of An Integrated Theory.
The full passage reads: One argument offered to establish this conclusion with respect to singu-
lary transformations . . . runs as follows. Either all, or none, or some singulary transformations
affect meaning. The first two alternatives are clearly preferable, because they make no reference
to specific features of a class of transformations. This argument would establish with equal cogency
that either all, or no animals are mammals, since only these two views make no reference to spe-
cific features of a class of animals. In fact, this argument would seem to enable us to avoid the
term some altogether in theoretical statements (138). That said, Staal does recognize that
Despite these a prioris the authors provide some sound semantic data which favour the general-
ization that no singulary transformations affect meaning (138) and proceeds to substantively
discuss particle inversions, deletions, and so on.


semantically equivalent surface variants or by operating over fundamentally

different underlying structures), the way is clear to extend this thesis to include
generalized transformations as well, yielding the claim: The meaning of every
sentence is determined uniquely by the operation of projection rules on under-
lying P-markers. Transformations would be without semantic effect (46). All
transformationswhether singulary or generalizedwould be semantically inert,
with alternative analyses to the contrary incorrect.
But before the challenge of the following chapterappropriately entitled
Apparent Counterexamplescan be directly confronted, the distinction
between singulary and generalized transformations must be explained as well as
how this distinction motivates the introduction of more abstract syntactic features
not observable on the surface. Since, on their own account, sentences derived
with generalized transformations, unlike singulary transformations, are associated
with more than one underlying P-marker, it might seem necessary to introduce
other (P2) projection rules to enforce a single semantic interpretation of sen-
tences involving embedded transformations. Instead, Katz and Postal introduce
the (universal) syntactic machinery of dummy elementsmorphemes, includ-
ing the constituent structures of Relative (Rel) and Complement (Comp) that do
not actually appear in the surface grammar of sentencesto ensure a single
interpretation from among separate underlying P-markers:

In other words, besides assuming a certain set of universal grammatical vocabulary, we assume
also a certain set of universal phrase structure rules. We claim that the grammars of all languages
introduce elements like Noun Phrase, Verb Phrase, etc. In other words, elements like Noun Phrase
and Verb Phrase will dominate among other things, sequences of universal elements like Rel and
Comp plus the lexical head constituents of these major categories, i.e., elements like Noun and
Verb. (48)

Indeed, the remainder of chapter 3 formulizes this approach and deploys a single
level of P1 projection rulesaccompanied by these more abstract P-marker
structuresto provide the correct semantic interpretation of sentences involving
embedded transformations. In essence, these nonterminal symbols allow for the
semantics of the sentence to be coordinated with the syntax by restricting the
distribution of embeddings to replacing these specified dummy elements (157).
Without them, the syntactic component would otherwise fail to provide a single
formal object capable of being semantically interpreted by P1 rules alone.
With the framework for deriving both singulary and generalized transforma-
tions in place, chapter 4 is devoted to defusing a variety of counterexamples to
the claim that all projection rules are restricted to underlying P-markers. The first
problem for this proposal is that such projection rules appear incapable of always
uniquely determining the correct semantic interpretation of a sentence. Of course,
one prominent example where surface semantic interpretations appear to be


misaligned from their underlying P-markers is the case of (singulary) passive sen-
tences incorporating quantified expressions and pronouns. As Katz and Postal
note, Chomsky12 himself argued that quantified sentences like

(11) Everyone in the room knows two languages.

(12) Two languages are known by everyone in the room.

are not synonymous on the basis that in the former case, the languages known by
various individuals need not be identical, while in the latter case it is the same
two languages known by everyone. Yet Katz and Postal argue that both sentences
are subject to the same ambiguity: (12) can be interpreted as selecting two spe-
cific languages, or equally, as specifying any two languages whether they are the
same pair or not.13
In any event, Katz and Postal reason that even if the sentences (11) and (12)
do differ in semantic interpretation, this does not entail that the same underlying
P-markers can transformationally give rise to semantically distinct sentences.
Only if one assumes that both sentences have the same underlying form could
any difference in meaning be attributed to the operation of a transformational rule.
But, as the authors point out, their analysis explicitly allows for the underlying
representations of sentences to include dummy morphemes (like Q and I), and in
this case, the proper treatment of passives specifically calls for the base P-marker
to include a passive dummy morpheme. In this way, passive sentences are not
derived from active sentences, but rather passive sentences are derived from
underlying sentences already including passive P-marker elements. The observa-
tion that sentences like (11) and (12), then, might be interpreted differently is no
threat to their theory as this is accommodated by the fact that sentences derived
from different underlying P-markers are supposed to yield different semantic
interpretations or can be countered by noting that both sentences can be ambigu-
ously interpreted suggesting that they are semantically equivalent paraphrases of
each other. Either way, it would seem, the Katz-Postal Principle is preserved:
either two distinct surface readings are derived from two distinct underlying

N. Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (The Hague: Mouton, 1957).
To be sure, Chomsky (Aspects) concedes that while many speakersand in particular himself
consider the sentences to be nonsynonymous, we might maintain that in such examples both inter-
pretations are latent (as would be indicated by the identity of the deep structures of the two
sentences in all respects relevant to semantic interpretation), and that the reason for the opposing
interpretation is an extraneous factoran overriding consideration involving order of quantifiers
in surface structuresthat filters out certain latent interpretations provided by the deep structures.
In support of this view, it may be pointed out that other sentences that derive from these (e.g.,
there are two languages that everyone in the room knows) may switch interpretations, indicating
that these interpretations must have been latent all along (224).


forms, or one ambiguous underlying P-marker structure gives rise to one ambigu-
ously interpretable surface form. Indeed, this same technique is pursued through-
out the exposition of all apparent counterexamples: whatever contribution
[singulary transformations] may appear to make must be regarded as due to some
inherent feature of the underlying phrase markers.14 None of negative transfor-
mations, imperatives, or questions is derived from simple declarative forms as
each is independently derived from different underlying P-markers, resulting in
correspondingly distinct surface interpretations.
Of course, this analysis stands in contrast to earlier syntactic treatments pre-
sented by Chomsky whereby the transformational component of the grammar is
responsible for syntactically deriving negatives, questions, and imperatives from
a single underlying form. Does this mean, Katz and Postal rhetorically ask, that
there are not any passive, negative, or imperative transformations? No. But
instead of introducing the morphemes that transform declarative sentences into
questions and imperatives, transformationslike the negative examples in (7)
and (8)only reposition preexisting morphemes, with the attendant effect that
the repositioning of these morphemes is obligatory rather than optional. Rather
than complicate the transformational process whereby surface forms are derived
from underlying P-markers, the P-markers themselves are structurally enriched.
As Lyons, in a 1966 review observes, What [this] alternative treatment does in
effect is to transfer the choice (upon which depends the difference in meaning
between, e.g., a declarative and a corresponding interrogative or imperative sen-
tence) from the transformational to the phrase-structure rules. . . . In addition to
the negative element posited by Lees15 and Klima,16 Katz and Postal set up an
interrogative element Q, and an imperative element I, as optionally selected
morphemes in the phrase structure rules (119).
Recall that within Chomskys initial formulation of generative grammar, trans-
formations had the dual purpose of deriving semantically different (questions,
imperatives, negatives) sentences from a single underlying declarative form and
relating optional surface variants of the same underlying form to each other (e.g.,
particle inversion and passive transformations). But given that transformations
operate only over underlying P-markers and do not affect meaning, either the
semantic difference between questions, imperatives, negatives, and declaratives
must be explained away, or only the second function of transformations can be
preserved. As Katz and Postal conclude, It therefore seems reasonable to say in
general that the transformations are merely stylistic variants necessarily having

J. J. Katz, Recent Issues in Semantic Theory, Foundations of Language 3 (1967): 12494.
R. Lees, The Grammar of English Nominalizations. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1960.
E. Klima, Negation in English, The Structure of Language: Readings in The Philosophy of
Language. ed. J. Fodor and J. Katz. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964; pp. 24663.


the same meaningnothing more remarkable than the syntactic analogue to free
allophonic variation (112).
Of course, once all of negatives, imperatives, interrogatives and passives
are each derived from different underlying base structures, the intuition that
such sentences are nevertheless somehow deeply related to each other must be
discharged. To this end, the authors develop a notion of similarity whereby
such sentences are related by structural resemblances rather than derived

An alternative explanation can be offered in terms of the present theory of linguistic descriptions.
We claim that such pairs of sentences are related because their underlying P-markers are similar.
This notion of similarity must, of course, be made precise. . . . The only natural answer to this
question is that the morphemes like Q, I, Negative, Passive, wh, etc., which differentiate pairs felt
to be intuitively related . . . are universal markers specified within the theory of descriptions. . . .
Thus it can be stated in the theory of linguistic descriptions that the similarity underlying intu-
itions of syntactic relatedness among sets of sentences must be based either on identity of under-
lying structures or on the presence of universal morphemes, like Q, wh, Negative, etc. Such markers
then serve to characterize the range of elementary sentence types in natural language. (11819)

With their counter-analysis of singulary transformations complete, Katz and

Postal turn their attention to accommodating generalized transformations that
appear to affect semantic interpretation. Exploring examples provided by
Chomsky,17 Katz and Postal arguesimilar to the treatment of quantified passive
sentencesthat the ambiguity of

(13) They found the boy studying in the library.

and similarly, the factive and manner ambiguity of

(14) I dislike Johns driving.

are to be explained in terms of a deep structural ambiguity at the level of under-

lying P-markers, rather than as an ambiguity produced by two different general-
ized transformations acting on the same underlying structure. This point is argued
at some length, with many examples cited and details refined, but culminates in
the simple observation that such ambiguous sentences can be forced to be inter-
preted as either factive or manner, indicating that ambiguous nominal construc-
tions of the Noun Phrase + genitive + verb + ing are born structurally ambiguous
and thus their factive and manner senses should be derived from correspondingly
distinct factive and manner P-markers. For while

Syntactic Structures.


(15) The fact that John drives is indubitable and uncontested.

is grammatical, the corresponding manner sentence

(16) *The way that John drives is indubitable and uncontested.

is not, in the same way and for the same reason that

(17) *The fact that John drives is hurried and reckless.

is ungrammatical, while the corresponding manner sentence

(18) The way that John drives is hurried and reckless.

is grammatical.
With these examples, Katz and Postal sustain their overall thesis that the
semantic interpretation of a sentence is uniquely determined by the operation of
only a single level of P1 projection rules acting on underlying P-markers, with
ambiguous surface sentences merely the overlapping result of transformations
working on two distinct underlying structures. In this way, and as repeated
throughout the monograph, cases like quantified passives and nominal construc-
tions that appear to threaten their thesis, are not therefore counterinstance[s] but
rather a piece of supporting evidence for the position we are defending (122)
and by the same token (though space does not permit discussion) [f]ar from
being counterexamples to our view of semantic interpretation, the case of agen-
tive and objective verbal derivations is further strong support for this view (148).
Having defended the thesis that no additional level of P2 projection rules is
required to coordinate syntactic transformations involving even embedded
clauses with the underlying semantics determined by P-markers, and hence, that
neither singulary nor generalized transformations affect meaning, Katz and Postal
ask the reader to follow them beyond the confines of grammatical theory and con-
sider some aspects of linguistics generally.18 In chapter 5, they conclude the mono-

This move toward a simplification of projection rules, however, does immediately motivate an
important development within syntactic theory proper. On the basis of Katz and Postals elimina-
tion of P2 rules, in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax Chomsky (1965) eliminates the need for gen-
eralized transformations altogether on the basis that all the necessary ordering rules are accounted
for by singulary transformations operating over P-markers themselves enriched with postionally
designated embedded P-markers. Given that sequences of singulary transformations apply cycli-
cally from the most deeply embedded phrase structure to the least embedded, and coordinate
constructions like conjunction can somehow also be accommodated, Chomsky concludes that gen-
eralized phrase-markers formed in this way contain all the base phrase-markers that constitute the


graph by briefly reckoning their account of linguistic descriptions with linguistic

theory generally, linguistic universals, the psycholinguistics of speech recogni-
tion and production, and finally Skinnerian models of language learning.
Chapter 5 begins with a statement expressing the heuristic value of construct-
ing linguistic analyses along the lines pursued throughout the monograph. This
principle, the authors emphasize, is not a statement in the linguistic description
of a language, nor is it a statement in linguistic theory, but rather it is a rule of
thumb based upon the general character of linguistic descriptions. The principle
can be stated as follows:

Given a sentence for which a syntactic derivation is needed, look for simple paraphrases of the
sentence which are not paraphrases by virtue of synonymous expressions; on finding them, con-
struct grammatical rules that relate the original sentence and its paraphrases in such a way that
each of these sentences has the same sequence of underlying P-markers. (157)

But in addition to constructing stylistic derivations of paraphrases on the basis of

underlying P-marker identity, it is clear that the converse of this heuristic princi-
ple is also very much at work, something to the effect: no matter how intuitively
similar two (nonidentical, nonsynonymous) sentences appear, they cannot, on
pain of allowing for transformations to have semantic effects (or necessitating a
distinct P2 level of projection rules), be derived from the same underlying P-
markers.19 Indeed, for Katz and Postal, the mechanics of making sure that two
sentences are not derived from the same underlying P-marker occupies them more
than deriving mutual paraphrases from the same base structuresand in the
process periodically encourages them to make several claims about the univer-
sality of linguistic structures and elements.
It is for this reason that Katz and Postal also summarize the role linguistic uni-
versals play in their conception of the structure of underlying P-markers, includ-
ing the P-markers associated with interrogatives, imperatives, negatives and
passives in addition to the usual noun phrases, verbs, and so on. After all, theirs
was not intended as merely an integrated theory of linguistic descriptions of

basis of the sentence, but it contains more information than a basis in the old sense since it also
indicates explicitly how these base Phrase-markers are embedded in one another. That is, the gen-
eralized Phrase-marker contains all of the information contained in the basis, as well as the infor-
mation provided by the generalized embedding transformations (1965, 134).
By contrast, it is worth noting that generative semanticistshaving identified deep structure with
generatively produced meaningswould pursue a different tactic: no matter how phrase-structure
distinct, all strings with similar meaning, e.g., the enemy destroyed the city and the enemys
destruction of the city or even the teacher used a car to drive to school and the teacher drove a
car to school, were to be derived from the same underlying conceptual (predicate logic) seman-
tics, and realized as syntactically different phrase structures through the application of transfor-
mations operating over these abstract semantic representations.


English, but as a general framework for all of natural language. As Katz and Postal
remark, unless such notions as subject Noun Phrase and Verb are character-
ized in the general theory of the syntactic component, essentially identical pro-
jection rules will have to be included ad hoc in the semantic components of all
languages (159); so to for Q, I, Neg, Passive. Pursuing this line of reasoning to
its seemingly inevitable conclusion, the authors argue that not only should the
major constituents of English be considered universal features of language, but
that the grammatical coordination among constituents be regarded as universal
too. Insofar as English requires subject noun phrases to precede the verb, then
the underlying P-marker relationship between subject noun phrases and verbs
must, according to Katz and Postal, also follow this order in all languages. So
while this may reasonably lead them to conclude that The very real differences
of major constituent order found in the actual sentences of natural languages must
then be due to transformational operations (139), it is unclear why, of all lan-
guages, English should be honored as the universal template, particularly when
Katz and Postal make the point early on that while their examples are almost
exclusively drawn from English, theirs is a study primarily concern[ing] abstract
questions about the nature of language and are aware of the need to test our
theory against examples drawn from a wide variety of languages as soon as they
have been (properly) described (5).
According to Katz and Postal, linguistic universals are of two types: sub-
stantive and formal, reminding the reader that The aim of traditional univer-
sal grammar was in effect to provide the concepts or categories in terms of which
linguistic rules could be stated. Interest in the goal of specifying the form of lin-
guistic rules is recent and due to the influence of Chomsky (166). While formal
universals express the rules by which generalizations regarding the linguistic rela-
tionship among elements can be formulated, substitutive universals provide the
basic inventory of linguistic elements. These include features of phonological
description (consonant, vowel, aspiration, etc.), syntactic description (noun
phrase, verb, dummy morphemes, etc.) and semantic description (male, physical
object, etc.), with the last set characterizing a putatively universal language of
semantic markers (sometimes referred to as markerese and more fully detailed
in Katz and Fodor20). Of course, claims regarding the universality of semantic
elements were, and remain, controversial. No doubt, as John Lyons writes,

If it were true that there is an alphabet of universal semantic components in terms of which it
is possible to describe the structure of the vocabularies of all languages (which is what the authors
claim), the formulization of projection rules of semantic interpretation on the basis of such com-
ponents, or markers, would constitute a significant advance in the theory of linguistic descrip-

The Structure of Semantic Theory.


tion. The principles of general phonetics and phonology derive their validity from the fact that
there is a language-neutral, homogeneous and physically describable substance. But what
grounds have we for believing in a common content substance whether conceptual or phenom-
enal, within which distinctions are drawn by the vocabularies?21

Clearly writing at a time before Fodors22 The Language of Thought and still later
mad dog versions of conceptual nativism (no less Fodors break with compo-
sitional meaning theories), Lyons continues, It remains to be seen how various
other meaning-relations between lexical items will be handled in terms of seman-
tic markers and projection rules, presumably of a different type. Only then shall
we be able to judge whether the treatment by Katz, Fodor and Postal of a
relatively restricted area of semantics contains anything of lasting value.23
Moving from language universals to models of speech production and recog-
nition, Katz and Postal see it as their task to explain how, at least in general terms,
phonetic representations of speech are both the articulatory product of and inter-
pretive basis for final derived P-markers. Yet while the final derived P-markers
provided by the syntactic component of the grammar determine how a sentence
will ultimately be phonologically realized, only the P-markers that underlie all
the others are relevant to semantic interpretation. Speech recognition and speech
production, then, are those mechanisms that are capable of recovering in real
timethrough the successive application of projection rulesunderlying P-
markers on the basis of final derived P-markers. Given that the relationship
between underlying and final derived P-markers may be mediated by multiple P-
marker derivations, it is suggested that, as a matter of psycholinguistic process-
ing economy, if the sequence of underlying P-markers can be obtained from the
final derived P-marker without depending on such intermediate structures, the
model ought to be constructed in such a way so as to avoid such dependence
(169), an assertion relevant to the initial wave of psycholinguistic work testing
the psychological reality of generative grammars that would soon to follow.
But processing models equipped with encoding and decoding mechanisms
attuned to the relationship between deep and surface structures would not only
serve speech recognition and production; they would also help explain language
learning. In the very last section of chapter 5, Katz and Postal close with a few
remarks on the significance of Chomskys work vis--vis behaviorist accounts of
language learning. Given that the surface output of final derived P-markers may
be radically different (173)that is transformationally distinct via permuta-
tions and deletionsfrom their underlying P-marker input, but base P-markers

Review of An Integrated Theory 124.
J. Fodor, The Language of Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1975.
Review of An Integrated Theory 124.


are the basis for semantic interpretation, a learner bent on inducing the rules of
the language merely from the limited set of actual observed surface sentences is
working at an impossible disadvantage. Since only final derived P-marker struc-
tures are directly observable, a learner unable to recover deep P-marker structure
through the application of projection rules would be unable to coordinate the
underlying P-marker semantics of a sentence with its derived syntactic, and hence
phonological form. Quoting Chomsky, the authors emphasize that The fact that
all normal children acquire essentially comparable grammars of great complex-
ity with remarkable rapidity suggests that human beings are somehow especially
designed to do this, with a . . . hypothesis-formulating ability of unknown
character and complexity (172).
But, of course, Katz and Postal did not wait until the end to cite directly from
Chomsky; Chomskys presence is felt throughout the monograph. And just as
much as Chomsky is the immediate background to An Integrated Theory of Lin-
guistic Descriptions, in the preface to his Studies on Semantics in Generative
Grammar, Chomsky would begin

The three essays that follow take as their point of departure the formulation of grammatical theory
presented in such work as J. J. Katz and P. M. Postal, An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Descrip-
tions, 1964, and Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory Syntax, 1965. For ease of exposition, I refer to
this formulation as the standard theory. The essays deal with problems that arise within this
framework, and present a revision of the standard theory to an extended standard theory (EST).24

And while EST, like Standard Theory itself, would give way to decades of revi-
sions, reconsiderations, and eventually minimalist-inspired abandonments, the
force and clarity by which Katz and Postal addressed issues at the core of
generative linguistics in the early sixties would sustainand dividelinguistic
theory for years to come.

The Graduate School and University Center, CUNY

Studies on Semantics 5.