Theoretical linguistics seems to be dominated by the Chomskian transformational generative grammar and its offshoots. I am wondering whether these theories are generally accepted by the German linguists and/or whether there are popular alternatives.

I will appreciate comments on this subject. More specifically:

  • Are transformational generative syntax theories popular among the German linguists?
  • Do these theories encounter specific problems when treating German and other Germanic languages? What kind of problems?
  • What are the alternative theories and where could I learn more about them?

Feel free to post in either English or German.

  • Chomsky's ideas are still unmistrusted valid when we are talking about formal languages, i.e. encoding schemes in which to encapsulate messages sent from computer to computer (Chomsky hierarchy). But his hypothesis about natural languages became more and more a targed of critiques and seems to become more and more outdated in present days. Feb 13, 2020 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


This question is difficult to answer in general terms because the framework chosen is highly dependent on the orientation of single scholars. There are still some hard-core Chomskians left and the principles of GG are still taught at Uni in order for students to understand and describe phenomena of constituency and dependency. However, in the last few years, there has been a consistent shift towards adopting the tenets of Construction Grammar a la Goldberg (1995) https://books.google.de/books/about/Constructions.html?id=HzmGM0qCKtIC&redir_esc=y

This approach focuses on existent constructions as forms with a certain syntactic configuration and pairs it with a semantic side, their meaning. There are two main pros related to it: (1) It reflects the way speakers produce utterances on the basis of constructions that are stored in their mental inventory by way of being used in a certain language. We use language through routinized blocks that we have heard lots of times, so to say. We do not proceed by shifting constituents or cumulate them in order to produce a sentence (contrary to Chomsky). This would be unrealistic in terms of language production. (2) It accounts for the fact that syntax is tightly linked with semantics. The latter played a minimal role in Chomsy's framework, if at all.

  • Thank you! This is a really interesting approach - it particularly appeals to me, since I am approaching the grammar from the point of view of a serial language learner. Could you recommend any German source on the subject?
    – Roger V.
    Feb 12, 2020 at 13:34
  • 1
    Here you will find some useful info gls-dresden.de/forschung/konstruktionsgrammatik-des-deutschen-3
    – Nico
    Feb 12, 2020 at 13:37

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