Transformational Rule: Optional and Obligatory

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Introduction Changing of sentences from one form to another is a favorite exercise in public school English. Thus from a sentence like John is writing a letter. May be formed, among others, the following: John isn’t writing a letter. Is John writing a letter? A letter is being written by John. Very little is ordinarily given by way of clearly formulated rules for these processes, yet students seem to learn the technique more or less readily. On the other hand, a little examination will show that changes of the sorts illustrated above can described structurally that is, in terms of the addition of elements, the rearranging of elements, or the altering of the form of elements. What specific portions of the sentence are involved, and how,…show more content…
In 11 the verb phrase begins with did, and –n’t is added directly. In 10 ran is a word to which –n’t cannot be added; it is therefore changed to did run. The interesting feature is that the outputs in the two pairs seem to be identical. Actually this is something of an illusion. There are a number of different pronunciations for a writing like The boy didn’t run away. Only one factor, the position of the sentence stress, needs to be noted here. There are at least the following pairs: 10. a. The boy ran away. The boy didn’t run away. b. The boy ran away. The boy didn’t run away. c. The boy ran away. The boy didn’t run away. 11. The boy did run away. The boy didn’t run away. This seems clearly the natural way to match them up. The sentences in each pair have the sentence stress in the same place. Did run occurs in the input only when the sentence stress falls on did. It follows, then, that did occurs in such sentences only either when –n’t is suffixed or when it receives the sentence stress. There are other uses of did, but most of them fit into the same pattern. The auxiliary did occurs in English only where sentence structure demands it. It is never required by the meaning, and it never means anything at all. The difference between the The boy ran away and The boy did run away. Is not a matter of the presence or absence of did, only of the stress position. Did is there

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