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Social Sci LibreTexts

1.3: Creativity and Generativity

  • Page ID
    9622
  • The foremost property of mental grammar is that it is generative: it allows each speaker to create new words and sentences that have never been spoken before. The mental grammar generates these new words and sentences according to systematic principles that every speaker knows unconsciously.

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    Check Yourself

    1. What does it mean to say that mental grammar is generative?

    • Every child inherits a mental grammar through their genes.
    • Some languages can generate concepts that are impossible to express in other languages.
    • The principles of mental grammar allow us to form completely novel sentences, and to understand them when we hear them.

    2. The systematic principles of English phonology generate some word forms but not others. Which of the following words could be a possible word in English?

    • Klaff.
    • Fkal.
    • Flakf.
    • Sflak.

    3. The systematic principles of English syntax generate some sentences but not others. Which of the following sentences is not possible in English?

    • You ain’t going nowhere.
    • Herself have wrote these excellent book.
    • Sam said she needed to speak to Chris and me.
    • This expedition aims to boldly go where no expedition has gone before.
    Answers