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’
    • ‘Possibly, the present verbal dual task interferes mostly with the phonological surface structure of the spatial sentence and not with the underlying propositional content.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘While this set of sentences has the surface structure of a formal argument, its persuasive force lies at a different level.’


surface structure