Linguistics 550 is an introduction to the systematic study of natural language syntax for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in linguistics and allied fields. The course presents the motivation for the modern generative approach to the scientific study of language and develops systematically a generative transformational treatment of the most basic syntactic constructions of natural language. The intellectual emphasis of the course is on understanding the reasoning process that guides syntactic analysis, especially the role of the Universal Grammar hypothesis and the logical problem of language acquisition in guiding research.
The first part of the course is based on a web textbook that was written here at Penn by Beatrice Santorini and myself. The book is updated from time to time and the current version will always be available from this page. It can be read on screen and/or printed out. For some of you, this material will provide a new perspective on familiar material while for others it will be new. The lectures and exercises will presume familiarity with the relevant chapters of the text and will amplify or comment on them.
The second part of the course aims to introduce you to reading and analyzing critically the primary literature in contemporary generative syntax. This part of the course investigates three topics like verb movement, the shell analysis of double objects and the use of Tree Adjoining Grammar as the formal notation of Universal Grammar.
Course assignments in the first part of the course will consist of weekly homework exercises and a take home exam. You must hand in the assignments by email. Hard copy will not be accepted. The homework makes extensive use of the TREES program developed here at Penn for the teaching of syntax. Instructions and links for downloading both the Windows and the Mac versions of the program are available here. If you want to use the program under Linux, you can do so in the WINE environment.
The Trees program works by running grammar tools. For each exercise that uses the program, you will be asked to download a grammar tool, which should be placed in the same directory as the program. Grammar tools are loaded into the program with the "Choose Grammar" menu item under the program's "File" menu. The program is also useful for drawing trees to be pasted into word processing documents. Download the tree-drawing grammar tool here for that purpose.
I'd like you to use the Latex document mark-up language for the assignments rather than a word-processing program like MSWord because Latex is a scientific standard nowadays. Since you may not know Latex at this point, I won't require it in the first part of the course but the final assignment will have to be formatted in Latex.
The second part of the course will involve somewhat more complex homework problems and a final short squib. Readings for the second part of the course will be provided on this course web page as needed.
Although syntax in its modern form developed only in the last 60 years, its descriptive vocabulary is based on the terms and concepts of traditional school grammar, as used in language teaching, especially the teaching of Latin. For those with limited background in these concepts, it might be useful to browse Allen and Greenough's Latin grammar, available through the Perseus project (Click here).
Possible Readings for part II
Supplementary readings (added as appropriate)