Diachronic vs Synchronic (short notes)


Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) one of the most notable Swiss linguist argued that an adequate treatment of the effect of time calls for a radical distinction between the two branches of linguistics and i.e. Synchronic and Diachronic linguistics.


Synchronic linguist, studies langue, which is a system that is psychologically real, thus it is the study of linguistic system in a particular state at a point of time.

For example; language at a particular point of time like, studying English now would be a synchronic study of modern English.


Diachronic linguistic is concerned with the relation of succession between individual items, which speakers are unaware of and which are not systematic, thus it is the study of its evolution in time.

For example; language change over time like, from old English to middle English and later to modern English, would be Diachronic linguistic.

Discuss Case, Thematic roles and Theta theory by citing relevant examples?


Case:  A morphological or Syntactic property of NPs are the Cases in English. It changes according to what a noun, pronoun or adjective does in a sentence. It is a set of forms which depend on the syntactic rules such as movements transformations and agreement.

For Example;

He is an intelligent’, ‘he’ is in Nominative Case because ‘he’ is the subject.

‘John saw him yesterday’, ‘him’ is in Accusative Case, because ‘him’ is the direct object of the verb ‘saw’.

‘This is a house’, ‘this’ is the Possessive Case because there is no notion of possession attached to it.

The main cases in English are;

  • Nominative Case, (The case assumed typically by the subject of a finite clause and the most neutral, least marked among the distinct Case-forms such as; we, she, he, they, are in the Nominative Case)
  • Accusative Case (This is the Case-form of pronouns such as; me, him, them, and thee, it is usually assigned by a verb to its direct or indirect object or by a preposition to its object that is why sometimes it is called as an Objective Case).
  • Genitive Case (The Case taken by a possessor NP, as in his mother, Mr. X’s car etc.

The notions of Thematic Role in Case

Thematic Roles are in a sense closer to the actual meaning of noun phrase than either grammatical function or Cases.

Let’s consider the following sentences;

  • “The door opened” and
  • “The guard opened the door”

In sentence (A) the door acts like a subject, whereas in sentence (B) the door becomes the direct object; therefore, here we can say that the “door” is in thematic role in respect of both sentences. However, NP the guard is the thematic role AGENT who is in real sense performed the action of opening “the door”.

There are several thematic roles such as; EXPERIENCER, INSTRUMENT, GOAL, SOURCE and LOCATION etc.

Case assignment and Case theory

Cases may not necessarily be expressed by means of distinct morphological Case- forms. for example; common noun such as book, cat, dog etc. do not have different case form for Nominative and Accusative forms.

Let’s understand with the help of sentence

  1. That book is interesting to read.
  2. I’ve read that book before.
  3. This cat roams around in the neighbourhood.
  4. Take this cat outside.

In English language it is necessary for NP to have a syntactic case, though it might not express in different form. If NP will not have a case form it won’t be able to connect itself with the sentence. This is what “generative grammarians called “case-filter”. According to generative grammarians ‘Noun Phrase’ is ungrammatical if it is does not have a syntactic case. This term further gives way to another term called “case theory”. This theory ensures that NPs bear meaningful and coherent relationships with the other elements in a sentence, and especially with Case- assigning elements in the sentence. Some of the most crucial syntactic elements of a sentence are Case- assigners. For instance; the verb, assigns Accusative Case to a direct object, only if it is in an active transitive verb and inflection element.

Case Theory is a support of generative grammar which deals with case filter and Case Assignment in a NP or sentence. It is also important in a movement transformational called NP movement.

Case Assignment is a special kind of relationship called government, the head of a phrase governs its Complement and its Specifier as well.

Case and NP movement

Case plays a central role in another salient kind of movement transformation besides ‘Wh’-movement. i.e. NP- MOVEMENT. The Passivization transformation, which derives a passive sentence from a deep structure which is close to its corresponding active sentence in certain respects is now held to be a sub-type of the transformation NP-Movement.

For Example;    (A) ___past + be eaten the mangoes by the children


                                     NP-Movement (Passivization)

                        (B) The mangoes were (= be + past 3 pl.) eaten by the children

In above Case, a passive sentence like in (B) is derived from a deep structure representation that is something like in (A) is the prepositional phrase by the children is in parentheses, which indicate that phrase is optional.

Exceptional Case- Marking (ECM)

Till now we have seen that it is essential for NP to have a syntactic case, but there is certain class of construction where NP is unable to find a syntactic case for itself through usual channel.

For Example;My mother wants [me to go the market]’ In this sentence ‘me’ bears Accusative Case instead of expected Nominative Case. It is an exceptional case marking which is responsible for the Accusative Case of ‘me’.

Thematic Roles

Thematic Role in a linguistic notion, refers as Theta role in syntax or at the syntax- semantic interface. Thematic Roles expresses the role of Noun Phrase that plays with respect to the action or state described by a governing verb. It basically indicates the semantic i.e. meaning (relationship between Noun Phrase and Verb in a sentence).

For Example;

‘Susan ate an apple’ in this sentence ‘Susan’ is the doer of the eating, so she is an AGENT; and the apple is the main item that is eaten, so it is a PATIENT.


Thematic Roles and Theta Theory

These are the parts of the generative grammar that deals exclusively with the thematic roles and often described as Theta theory. It is denoted as θ. Thematic Roles are also known as θ- roles or theta theory. Theta theory is specifically based on Theta Criterion.

Theta Role, a semantic role played by a NP in its capacity is an argument to a verb or preposition or sometimes an adjective like; fond (of) or (worth).

The Lexicon in the generative grammar of a given language is believed to carry S-selection information about the thematic roles required by a given lexicon item.

The Theta theory states that every argument NP must be assigned one and only one thematic role. This also means that every thematic roles must be assigned to one and only one argument. There are basically two thematic roles i.e. AGENT and THEME.

Theta criterion

A criterion or principal states that an argument NP must be assigned one and only one thematic role and conversely. That means every argument NP in a sentence bears one and only one theta role and each theta role is assigned to one and only argument NP.

This criterion ensures that no Noun Phrase is selected by the lexical entry for a given verb or predicate adjective, or even preposition can be in a sentence without being given a proper thematic role.

Thematic Role and Case

It is easy to find a lot of correlation between certain cases and certain thematic roles.

For example; if an argument NP is in a Nominative case, it must be acquire the thematic role of AGENT or EXPERIENCER, and if an argument NP is in a Accusative case, it must acquire the thematic role of THEME or PATIENT. But these correlations the case and thematic role is not always uniform.

An argument NP can have the same thematic role but different case.

For Example; ‘they often like amusing toys’ and ‘Amusing toys are often like by them’. In first, the sentence ‘they’ bears the role of EXPERIENCER and in second ‘them’ bears the role of EXPERIENCER as well, but the cases are different in both the sentences. Therefore, the notion or concept of thematic role or thematic relations plays a significant role in English. Thematic Role are closer to actual meaning of NP than grammatical functions or case are.


Grammatical functions, Cases and thematic roles are often overlapping but not perfectly matching properties that NPs in a sentence display. These functions i.e. Case and thematic roles however, are all possessed by Noun Phrase in a sentence.

Short notes on Sonnet

Sonnet is a short lyric, consisting 14 lines, that developed in Italy in the middle ages. The sonnets are typically written in iambic pentameter.

The sonnets originally introduced by a 13th century Italian poet, Giacomo da Lentini, but was popularized by a 14th century humanist scholar Francesco Petrarca, who also known as father of sonnet.

The sonnets are broadly divided into three styles;

  1. The Petrarcan style, which is the most common consisting of an octave and sestet.
  2. The Spenserian style, which has four quatrains and a couplet, rhyming ABAB BCBC CDCCD EE.
  3. The Shakespearian style, which follows the Spenserian line scheme of four quatrains and a couplet, but different in its rhyme scheme i.e. ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

The sonnet become popular in Italian poetry primarily as a vehicle for the expression of love and sensuality, a heritage that it carried with it into its English versions.

Francesco Petrarca, an Italian poet who was mostly known for the practice of the same and its canzoniere (a collection of love sonnets, is a kind of literary compendium of the passions of the lover).

The sonnet is in many way, is the most appropriate form of the articulation and expression of the kind of sentiments that came to be characterized as courtly love. Its brevity prevents excessive sentiment from becoming sententious and forcing such a sentiment to be articulated through intense imagery and condensed rhythm.

At the same time its internal organization allows the poet a degree of flexibility and innovativeness in terms of constructing the poem as a dramatic movement or series of movements that mirrored the movements of his own passions and feelings.

One of the important virtues of any courtier, according to the influential Italian writer Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier was moderation. The moderation in terms as we can see how important the sonnet was a form of the lyric that held in moderation even as it hinted at. The overwhelming passions of the courtly lover. Perhaps the most significantly, it allowed the poet to represent love as an intense yet elusive, almost ephermeral and trans- wordly feeling. An ideology of love that characterized the poetry of the courtly love tradition. In this sense, the sonnet was the ideal form for the articulation of this dominant conception of love in the Renaissance.

Therefore, the sonnets initiated a way of thinking and writing about love in English poetry that was fundamentally chivalric, based on feudal themes and ideas and centered on the figure of the beloved as mistress of the poet.

Generative Grammar short notes

Generative grammar is a theory introduced by Noam Chomsky in 1950. He was an American linguistic who developed ‘UG’ “Universal Grammar” theory.

Generative grammar means to ‘generate’ is a theory of language proposed by Chomsky in his ‘syntactic structure‘ in 1957, which means a precisely formulated set of rules whose output is all (and only) the sentence of a language i.e. of the language that it generates. However, Noam Chomsky’s the theory of language is associated with the shift in orientation, has been referred as Generative grammar.

According to Chomsky, generative grammar is a system of rules that generates exactly those combinations of words that form grammatical sentence in a given language. It is also a set of explicit rules that may apply repeatedly to generate an indefinite number of sentences which can be as long as one wants them to be.

Generative grammar is a theory of grammar that holds human language which is shaped by a set of basic principles which is also a part of human being.

There are two principles which signifies this theory such as;

  1.  The universal feature:- This feature constitutes grammar of individual language which should be characterized in formal terms.
  • Formal statement:- This statement is equated with characterizing the tacit knowledge or competence, which a native speaker have about like; syntactic, phonological, morphological and semantic patterning in their language.

Generative grammar sees the theory of competence as forming a central component of language, which interacts with principle from cognition, neurology, physiology and other domains to give language its overall character.

Generative grammar doesn’t not merely distinguish the grammatical sentence of a language from ungrammatical sequence of words of the same language; but they also provide a structural description or syntactic analysis for each of the grammatical sentence.

There are different types of generative grammar including ‘Transformational generative grammar’ which is also developed by Noam Chomsky in mid 1950s.

Transformational generative grammar refers to the way of specifying the rules and the relationships between the types of function that it performed.

  • They change underlying grammatical relations in the case of passives which is derived from actives.

For Example:

In active- “John saw Jill”

In passive- “Jill was seen by John”

As we can see in above sentence, that how active sentence is derived in passive by using syntactic element. Therefore, these transformations are referred as singularly (simple) transformation, because they include transformation like passive auxiliary and negative.

  • And as a second function, transformations create complex sentences out of simple ones, as in the case of embedding.

The sentence, “Amy thinks that Bill will leave” was driven by an embedding transformation that combined “Amy thinks” and “will leave”. Therefore, these transformations are refers as generalized (doubled- based) transformation.

In formulating the principles of transformational grammar. Chomsky clarified essential properties of transformations.

However, the ‘Chomskian’ approach not only offered a dynamic vision of syntagmatic structure which was mixing in structural grammar, but also eliminated the atomization of “La Langue” that accompanied post- ‘Bloomfieldian’ methods and suggested a processual concept of “La Langue” in which each sequence of rules stem from a coherent.

Also, Chomsky’s theory was opposed to post- Bloomfieldian’s analytical approach to structure, and in proposed to that, he said instead of breaking down the sentence into immediate constitutions one should follow the synthetic process that leads these constitutes to a syntagmatic structure or transform this into another one.

Langue and Parole short notes

Langue is the system or a structure of a language, it is an individual concept, in which a linguistic use a particular set of grammar rules and vocabulary to communicate.

While Parole is an activity of speaking in a language. Parole means ‘speech’ which refers to the concrete instances of the use of langue that includes both speaking and writing of context.

Langue and Parole is the concept given by father of Swiss linguistic Ferdinand de Saussure in his course in General Linguistics in 1857-1913.

According to Saussure langue is something that is at once social and constraining, it is both a social product of the faculty of speech and a collection of necessary conventions, that have been adopted by a social body to permit individuals to exercise that faculty. Therefore, it is the possession of the community of speakers which is fixed. While on the other hand, Parole is the realm of freedom, it is an individual act that is willful and intellectual.

Therefore, these two aspects of language examined by Saussure at the beginning of 20th century, he examines that langue is a system of Internalization that based on structuralisms and hence, shares rules like; vocabulary, principles of construction, idioms and pronunciation. While Parole, designates actual oral and written communication.

Langue represents the abstract system of structural relationships inherent in language hence it is a work of a collective intelligence. While Parole on the other hand, is an individual statement, utterances, events of a language.  According to Saussure, there would be no coherent and meaningful utterance without the institution of norms, that is a langue by Saussure.

Saussure acclaims that the langue as a system is a social essence and independent of the individual that registers passively, whereas Parole is purely individual and subjective. One of the popular Linguistic Mikhail Bakhtin in (1929) criticized the splitting of langue and parole as separating individuals and society, where it matters the most at the point of production. Therefore, he developed a ‘dialogic’ theory of utterances where language is understood in terms of how it orients the speaker and listener. Thus, the words are subject to negotiation, contest and struggle which is highly affected by social contexts.

With the point of view of Saussure, the structural approaches to the analysis of language is not only concerned with explicating the internal workings of langue but it also involves the segmentation of utterances into the elements in terms of two basic and complimentary relation that is syntagmatic and Paradigmatic.


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