Definition of surface structure in English:

surface structure


mass noun
  • (in transformational grammar) the structure of a well-formed phrase or sentence in a language, as opposed to its underlying logical form.

    ‘rules of transformation change deep structure into surface structure’
    Contrasted with deep structure
    count noun ‘those types of sentences which have deep structures identical to their surface structures will be called base sentences’
    • ‘The theory postulates that the two sentences have the same order in deep structure, but the question transformation changes the order to that in surface structure.’
    • ‘That is, switching should occur at points where the surface structures of the two languages map onto each other.’
    • ‘Possibly, the present verbal dual task interferes mostly with the phonological surface structure of the spatial sentence and not with the underlying propositional content.’
    • ‘While this set of sentences has the surface structure of a formal argument, its persuasive force lies at a different level.’


surface structure