LING217-15S1 (C) Semester One 2015

Sentence Structure

15 points
23 Feb 2015 - 28 Jun 2015


This course offers you the opportunity to discover the principles behind the way in which speakers of a language combine words into phrases and sentences. We will take a scientific look at utterances you encounter in everyday life, and you will learn to use tree diagrams to represent the structural patterns you find.

The course provides an introduction to transformational generative grammar, in particular the Government and Binding (GB) approach to Principles and Parameters Theory (PPT). An important aim of the course is to provide students with the opportunity to learn how to think like a syntactician and to apply the theoretical concepts introduced in the course to practical examples. Our sessions will therefore be run in a workshop format with a strong emphasis on class participation, and there will be some flexibility to adapt the content of individual sessions to the interests of the students in the course. A rough chronological outline of the topics covered in the course is given below:
• Review of general principles of phrase structure and constituency tests, building on the background taught in LING101
• Binding theory, which tries to capture the distribution and interpretation of pronouns and reflexives
• The X-bar theory of phrase structure, which seeks to account for universal patterns as well as cross-linguistic variation in the ways that words are combined into phrases and sentences
• The relation between the lexicon and the underlying structure of a sentence, i.e. how semantic and syntactic properties of particular words are expressed in the phrase structure
• Classic transformations, i.e. rules of movement of words and phrases that allow us to relate the underlying structure of sentences to their surface forms. The types of transformations discussed include head movement, noun phrase movement, and wh-movement.

Relation to other courses
This is one of the three 200-level courses required for students majoring in Linguistics (the others being LING215 and LING216). LING217 can also count towards a minor in linguistics, and can be taken by students majoring in English Language or other disciplines. It complements LING210 (Language variation across space and time), which looks at how various components of language, including sentence structure may vary and change over time.

Learning Outcomes

  • Through their experiences with this course, students are anticipated to be able to:
  • work both independently and collaboratively to understand the main principles of transformational grammar and apply them to the practical analysis of syntactic data
  • identify patterns in syntactic data and use them to evaluate hypotheses about syntactic structure
  • develop skills in syntactic reasoning and argumentation
  • discover links between the syntactic topics covered in the course and other areas of knowledge
  • communicate their findings effectively, using appropriate linguistic terminology, and supporting their arguments with illustrative examples and diagrams

    As with all courses, students will find that the workload varies according to their interests and background. However, most students will have to dedicate at least as much time to this course outside class as in class. Since the course focuses on the practical application of syntactic theory, you should expect to spend most of the extra time on applying what we cover in class to practical examples you encounter in your everyday life. To get the most out of the course, you are also strongly encouraged to take an active part in class discussions.


LING101 or LING111 or ENGL123 or ENGL112


LING201, LING206, LING211

Course Coordinator

Heidi Quinn


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Syntax Journal 10% Due throughout the semester.
Class Participation 20% Due throughout the semester
Test 05 May 2015 30%
Written Assignment 05 Jun 2015 40%

Textbooks / Resources

Required Texts

Carnie, Andrew; Syntax: a generative introduction; 3rd; Malden,MA: Blackwell (This is the only edition of the text that you can buy new. You are also welcome to use the 2nd edition of this book (published in 2007), which was the set text in the last few years, and thus should still be available second-hand).

Course links

Library portal
The course outline is available on LEARN (only for students enrolled in this course).

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $697.00

International fee $2,913.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

For further information see Language, Social and Political Sciences.

All LING217 Occurrences

  • LING217-15S1 (C) Semester One 2015