Syntax 1


This is the first of three courses in formal syntax, designed to introduce students to the core empirical issues involved in developing a theory of the structure of human languages, and to familiarize them with the analytical tools involved in the investigation of this domain. The central topics of the fall quarter will include phrase structure and constituency, selection and subcategorization, argument structure, case, voice, expletives, and raising and control structures.


The written work for the course will consist of problems in syntactic analysis, designed to develop your skills in syntactic analysis, to familiarize you with the formal aspects of syntactic theory, and to help you learn how to develop and adapt a theory in light of data that challenges or extends a set of basic assumptions. The assignments will therefore both test your understanding of what we have covered and also serve to introduce new issues that will be discussed in subsequent classes. In some cases, you will not yet have the tools to handle a particular problem; your task here will be to figure out how to extend our system to deal with it. It is important to remember that there is often no `right' answer; what you should focus on is coming up with at least well-reasoned discussions of the problems you encounter in the exercises, and at best well-argued and clearly explained proposals for how to solve them. Clarity of discussion and completeness of argumentation are the two factors that we will be looking for when evaluating the assignments.

Assignments will be handed out at the end of class and due at the beginning of the next class. For the first two of weeks, we will have an assignment every day, and then we will move to one assignment per week during the third week of the class, for a total of eleven assignments over the course of the quarter. Our progress through the course and discussions in class will be driven largely by the assignments, therefore it is crucial that you turn them in at the beginning of class on the day they are due. Late assignments will not be accepted, however, I will drop the lowest grade (which may be a zero) from the first ten assignments when calculating your grade at the end of the quarter. The grade on the final assignment will not be dropped.

Finally, you are expected to do the work on your own.


Your evaluation will be based on performance on the assignments and participation in class.


There is no textbook for this class.

The Plan

The following is a rough week-by-week plan for the course, though we may end up diverging from it a bit depending on the progress we make. Assignments will be downloadable from the website on the day that they are assigned.