Aspects of the Theory of Syntax
Beginning in the mid-fifties and emanating largely form MIT, an approach was developed to linguistic theory and to the study of the structure of particular languages that diverges in many respects from modern linguistics. Although this approach is connected to the traditional study of languages, it differs enough in its specific conclusions about the structure and in its specific conclusions about the structure of language to warrant a name, "generative grammar." Various deficiencies have been discovered in the first attempts to formulate a theory of transformational generative grammar and in the descriptive analysis of particular languages that motivated these formulations. At the same time, it has become apparent that these formulations can be extended and deepened.The major purpose of this book is to review these developments and to propose a reformulation of the theory of transformational generative grammar that takes them into account. The emphasis in this study is syntax; semantic and phonological aspects of the language structure are discussed only insofar as they bear on syntactic theory.
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Although certainly dated, "Aspects" is an admirable and, to date, unsurpassed attempt at defining a theory for the study of language, with coherent, consistent and systematic scientific grounding.
Many points made in the book will seem to the modern reader very clearly misguided and at times circular, but since it's publication it's been the analytical basis for the study of language and bears influence further still in the foundations of cognitive psychology, which last to this day.
Personally, I find this book to be the place to go if you wanna learn the formal approach to linguistics, however, to learn the subject seriously and adequately, there'll be some decades of research to update yourself with.
If you are new to Linguistics: this is where to start.
If you're interested in cognitive psych: right this way
If you're interested in philosophy: take a good look here
Landmark book, but you need to take it for what it is. A place to learn where to move from.
A great leap forward on the long way down.