Topics in Syntax - LING8470

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Spring Term 7 15 (7.5) Laura Bailey checkmark-circle


This course will explore a specific model of formal syntactic theory: Minimalism. By investigating some of the core issues developed within the Minimalist Program, such as the role of phrase structure, the central role of movement processes and the mechanisms which are responsible for them, students will have the opportunity to examine how the Minimalist framework can account for the differences and similarities found in languages, in which ways it is controversial and the assumptions it makes regarding the interaction of syntax with other linguistic components (morphology/semantics/pragmatics). Focusing on a specific model will give students the opportunity to consider in depth not only its methods and its aims, but also the proper nature of syntactic argumentation. The investigation will entail both theoretical and descriptive perspectives, thus emphasizing the importance of description in supporting and testing theory. As such, students will be encouraged to evaluate theoretical claims in the light of observations drawn from a wide range of languages.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

• Exercise-based task 1 – 25%
• Exercise-based task 2 – 25%
• Critical review (1,500 words) - 50%

Reassessment methods

Reassessment instrument: 100% coursework:

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Adger, D. (2003). Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Boeckx, C. (2006). Linguistic Minimalism: Origins, Concepts, Methods, and Aims. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Hornstein, N., Nunes, J. & Grohmann, K. K. (2005). Understanding Minimalism: An Introduction to Minimalist Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Lasnik, H., Uriagereka, J. & Boeckx, C. (2005). A Course in Minimalist Syntax: Foundations and Prospects Oxford: Blackwell
Van Gelderen, E. (2013). Clause Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the central areas of syntactic thought, as well as the basics of empirical enquiry;
2 Demonstrate comprehensive skills in using syntactic tree-drawing techniques, the purpose of which is to provide a comprehensive representation of syntactic
constituency and operations;
3 Demonstrate a critical awareness and understanding of the theory and methods used to develop lines of argument and conduct theoretically informed cross-linguistic
analyses of data;
4 Critically evaluate the extent to which the linguistic theory they have been introduced to can both describe and explain the syntactic properties of the data with which they
have been presented.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their capacity for critical and original thought;
2 Demonstrate fluent writing skills, that enable them to clearly communicate ideas and analysis to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
3 Show honed time management skills, and the ability to take initiative and personal responsibility for their own learning.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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