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Syntax (Studies in Grammar)
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Course Info
Class schedule: Tuesday/Thursday, 9:30-11:00am
Virtual Classroom: Collaborate Ultra
Linguistics Lounge: Tu&Th, 11.00-11.30
Collaborate Ultra (or by appointment)
M&Th, 4.00-4.30
Collaborate Ultra (or by appointment)
Instructor: Rose-Marie Déchaine
e-mail instructor
TA1: Rose Underhill
e-mail TA1
TA2: Ife Adebara
e-mail TA2
Friday Tutorials: T01, 1.00-2.00
Buchanan B306
Course Syllabus: Ling300 syllabus
Wikipedia Project Page
Ling300 Wikipedia Project Page
Course Lessons
Background Materials

Syntax is the branch of linguistics that deals with the structure of sentences. Syntax, understood as the (implicit) knowledge that speakers have of the sentence structure of their language, is a core component of the human language faculty, and interfaces with all aspects of grammar, and ultimately human cognition. Words are the building blocks of syntax; consequently, syntax and word-level processes (morphology) go hand-in-hand. Syntax is shaped by, and shapes, semantics: lexical meaning constrains syntactic structure, and syntactic structure in turn constrains rules of semantic composition. Syntax also shapes phonology, as the output of syntax is the input for rules of phonological interpretation. We will therefore be concerned with: (i) what the study of sentence structure reveals about the organization of the grammar (understood as a form of cognition); (ii) how syntax interfaces with other components of the grammar (especially, phonology, morphology, and semantics).

Goals and Objectives

There are two primary learning outcomes:

  • Use hypothesis-testing to identify syntactic relations, with a focus on:
  • detecting syntactic relations (“What’s out there?”)
Categories: How do linguists detect the syntactic atoms of language?
Constituents: How do linguists detect the structure of a sentence?
Selection: How do linguists detect the dependency relations that hold between constituents?
  • modeling syntactic relations (“How do linguists model what’s out there?”)
Storage: How is information about syntactic atoms is encapsulated in the lexicon?
Computation: How are syntactic atoms assembled into complex units via recursive structure-building?
Representation: How do syntactic atoms generate labelled trees?
  • Working collaboratively, contribute to knowledge dissemination by developing a Wikipedia entry in one of the following four themes:
Theme A
General Syntactic Theory
A1. Bare Phrase Structure; A2. Biolinguistics; A3. Category-neutral roots; A4. IDLP format; A5. Minimalist theory; A6. Minimality
Theme B
Verbal Syntax
B.1 Syntax of C: clause typing; B.2 Syntax of T: tense-marking; B.3 Syntax of Aspect: aspect-marking; B.4 Syntax of V: vP shell; B.5 Syntax of event structure: events versus states; B.6 Syntax of valency: intransitive, transitive, ditransitive; V.7 Syntax of voice: active, passive, middle voice
Theme C
Verbal Syntax
Lexical semantics, Head parameter, Subject parameter, Theta criterion
Theme D
Binding Theory
Bound variable pronoun, Logical Form, Logophoricity, PRO

Textbook information, websites, additional resources

  • Textbook:
  • Sportiche, Dominique, Hida Koopman & Edward Stabler. (2014) An Introduction to Syntactic Analysis and Theory (First Edition). Wiley-Blackwell. [SKS]
  • Background material:
  • Sobin, Nicholas. (2011) Syntactic Analysis: The Basics. Wiley-Blackwell. [S=Sobin]
  • Carnie, Andrew. (2012) The Syntax Workbook. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Wikipedia project: see course Wiki for additional resources


Date Assignment
Th 11 Sept Problem set 1: Constituency & X-bar Theory (2%)
Th 18 Sept Milestone 1/individual: Wikipedia conventions (5%)
Th 25 Sept Problem set 2: Binding & Locality (2%)
Th 02 Oct Milestone 2/group: Annotated bibliography (5%)
Tu 07 Oct Mid-term exam (in-class; 15%)
Fri 17 Oct; Mon 20 Oct Round 1 Content Meetings
Tu 21 Oct Self & peer assessment 1 (formative)
Wed 22 Oct; Fri 24 Oct; Wed 29 Oct Round 1 Technical Support Meetings
Mon 27 Oct Problem set 3: Movement (2%)
Fri 31 Oct; Mon 03 Nov Round 2 Content Meetings
Tu 04 Nov Milestone 3/group: Review other Wikipedia projects (5%)
Wed 05 Nov; Fri 07 Nov; Wed 12 Nov Round 2 Technical Support Meetings
Fri 07 Nov Problem set 4: Detecting structure (2%)
Th 13 Nov Milestone 4/group: Submit for peer review for "Good Article" status (5%)
Th 20 Nov Problem set 5: Syntactic atoms (2%)
Th 27 Nov Milestone 5/individual & group: Reflective essay & Nomination for "Featured Article" status (5%)
Th 04 Dec Final Exam (take-home; 25%)
Tue 09 Dec 3.30-6.30pm (during final exam period) Location TBA, Oral presentation (5%)
Th 11 Dec Final posting of Wikipedia article (20%)
Fri 12 Dec Self & peer assessment 2 (summative)
Mon 15 Dec Cut-off date for credit for Linguistics Outside the Classroom activities

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