Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

LING2003 Syntax: Studying Language Structure

Module Overview

This course will provide you with an introduction to syntax within current linguistic theory.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

A grounding in syntax within current linguistic theory; ï‚· Practice in analysing linguistic data; ï‚· A basis for comparing the language(s) studied in the degree course with English.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The basics of the theory of Principles and Parameters and its implications for how children acquire language;
  • How to identify syntactic categories and their features;
  • How to determine syntactic structure by constituency tests (representing this information in syntactic tree diagrams);
  • Key theoretical principles, including Empty categories, Head-movement, and Operator-movement.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • appreciate and engage with key theoretical concepts in syntax;
  • critically assess traditional approaches to the grammar of English and other language(s) studied in the degree course;
  • organise and present information in an academic way.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of elements of theory which can be applied to the study of other languages;
  • apply logical reasoning and problem-solving techniques in order to analyse new data;
  • work effectively in different modes: carrying out individual research and using this as input to collaborations with partners in seminars;
  • present findings and ideas in a structured, coherent manner.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use an awareness of issues in syntactic theory to benefit learning and using the language(s) studied in the degree course.


This module will introduce you to the notion of grammar within a generative framework. You will study grammatical categories and their function within sentences. You will look at how sentences are structured and analysed and practise such analyses by doing weekly exercises. You will compare syntactic structures in a number of languages, and study how they vary (e.g. pro-drop, V movement, Wh-movement). You will investigate how complex structures such as interrogatives can be explained through movement of categories, and how this works differently in different languages.

Special Features

This module constitutes an introduction to syntactic theory within a generative framework. It will encourage you to reflect analytically on how sentences work, and how their structure is organised. It will engage you in consciously examining the language(s) you are learning. Ideas, concepts, and theories will be introduced in the lectures. Seminars will provide the occasion to explore particular topics in greater depth, and apply the theories to linguistic data, allowing you to engage with them critically. Seminars will also encourage you to analyse syntactic theories on the basis of linguistic data—primarily in English, but increasingly from a range of languages you may be familiar with—and will provide an opportunity for you to explore specific areas in more detail, through investigation and collaboration. Weekly reading will introduce you to linguistic phenomena which may pose problems for syntactic theory and will encourage you to consider further the problem of capturing the widest range of data possible with the most elegant hypotheses (skills that are examined in greater depth in the follow-up module Advanced Syntax, LING3003). The end of module exam and assessed exercises both address the course as a whole, with an emphasis on demonstrating a firm grasp of fundamental concepts in syntactic theory and describing them concisely, supported by relevant examples.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include ï‚· One lecture per week ï‚· One seminar per week involving group work Learning activities include ï‚· Individual reading, collaborative research, practical exercises and reflection Developing presentation skills through seminar preparation

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Carnie, Andrew (2002). Syntax: A Generative Introduction. 

Radford, Andrew (1997). Syntax: A Minimalist Introduction. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  Exercises to be completed over the mid-semester Easter break;  Sample exam questions for revision.


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 60%
Exercise  (1000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 60%
Exercise  (1000 words) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.