Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 5 15 (7.5) DR V Janke checkmark-circle


This course will introduce students to one aspect of formal linguistics, specifically syntactic theory. Syntax will be defined as one aspect of a person's grammar, to be distinguished from the lexicon, semantics, morphology, and phonology. Focusing on the structure of sentences, the course will examine the principles according to which phrases and structures are formed, as well as speakers' knowledge about the structural well-formedness of the sentences they hear and produce.

Students will gradually learn to draw syntactic trees that can represent the syntactic operations that they will be introduced to. They will learn to conduct syntactic tests on English and cross-linguistic data, thereby becoming versed with the empirical method. The course will combine both minimalist and earlier government and binding work. We will examine the competence/performance distinction, the notion of I-language, poverty of the stimulus arguments, levels of representation, phrase-structure rules, and constituency tests as a means for testing phrase structure, case theory, theta theory, binding and movement.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

In-Course Test (45 minutes) – 20%
Data Set 1 (equivalent to 2,000 words) – 35%
Data Set 2 (equivalent to 2,500 words) – 45%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Chomsky, N. (2001) Language and Problems of Knowledge: The Managua Lectures. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.
Haegeman, L. (1994) Introduction to Government and Binding Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.
Isac, D and Reiss, C. (2009) I-Language: an introduction to linguistics as cognitive science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jackendoff, R. (1993) Patterns in the Mind. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Radford, A. (2009) Syntax, A Minimalist Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, N. (2004) Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roberts, I (1997) Comparative Syntax. New York: St Martins Press Inc.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate a solid understanding of core concepts in formal linguistic theory, as well as the fundamentals of empirical enquiry;
Construct phrase-structure markers, the purpose of which is to provide a comprehensive representation of syntactic constituency and operations;
Conduct theoretically informed cross-linguistic analyses of data;
Develop lines of argument and make informed judgements on the basis of cross-linguistic evidence that they will assess the validity of throughout the course;
Demonstrate their capacity for critical thought, their ability to express these thoughts accurately and to analyse cross-linguistic data;
Assess the extent to which the linguistic theory they have been introduced to can both describe and explain the syntactic properties of the data they have been presented with.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  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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