LING306-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019

Topics in Syntactic Theory

30 points
15 Jul 2019 - 10 Nov 2019


This course follows on from second-year syntax, covering selected advanced topics and current research in syntactic theory.

Syntactic theories systematically represent and explain the grammatical structure of human languages. Why are some combinations of words meaningful while others are never produced by speakers? How do children learn productive combinations without observing ungrammatical alternatives? What syntactic structures are possible in human languages? The goal of a syntactic theory is to maintain descriptive adequacy (i.e., to explain as much of the grammatical structure of as many languages as possible) while limiting the complexity of its representations.

This course explores representations of syntactic structure ranging from simple phrase structure grammars to more complex transformational grammars and construction grammars. The descriptive adequacy of each approach involves four primary sources of evidence: introspection, corpus data, psycholinguistic measurements, and language acquisition. Specific syntactic phenomena include arguments vs. adjuncts, active/passive alternations, local reorderings, verb position, and phrase fronting. The goal is to use these phenomena to understand the empirical foundations of syntactic theories.

Relation to other courses:
This is one of a range of 300-level courses available for students majoring in Linguistics either for the BA or the BSc, alongside LING307, LING310, and LING320. It can also be taken by students majoring in English Language or other disciplines.

Learning Outcomes

  • By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the linguistic assumptions behind different syntactic theories
  • Demonstrate how different theories describe the same syntactic structure
  • Compare and contrast the descriptions produced by different syntactic theories
  • Critique the assumptions of syntactic theories against empirical evidence
  • Develop an argument to support the analysis of one theory over another
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.


LING201 or LING206 or LING211 or LING217

Timetable 2019

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 09:00 - 10:00 Jack Erskine 121 15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct
Computer Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 13:00 - 15:00 Jack Erskine 339 Language Lab 15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct

Course Coordinator

Jonathan Dunn


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Quizzes 25% Through Learn
Attendance 15% Weeks 1-12
Mid-term project 25% Week 8
Final project 35% Week 12

Textbooks / Resources

Required Texts

Stefan Müller; Grammatical theory: From transformational grammar to constraint-based approaches; 2015 (Available for free at

Course links

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

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,523.00

International fee $6,375.00

* 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 LING306 Occurrences

  • LING306-19S2 (C) Semester Two 2019