Definition of surface structure in US English:

surface structure


  • (in generative grammar) the structure of a well-formed phrase or sentence in a language, as opposed to its underlying abstract representation.

    Contrasted with deep 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Possibly, the present verbal dual task interferes mostly with the phonological surface structure of the spatial sentence and not with the underlying propositional content.’


surface structure

/ˈsərfəs ˈstrək(t)ʃər/