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LING3003 Advanced Syntax

Module Overview

This unit will deepen your understanding of syntactic theory within a generative framework. You will further your grasp of grammatical categories and their function within sentences, and you will study a range of complex syntactic phenomena.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To build on the foundations of syntactic theory acquired in the second year syntax module (LING2003); • To gain proficiency in analysing complex linguistic phenomena in English; • To be able to provide a theoretical analysis of syntactic contrasts between English and other languages studied in the degree course.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The role of the syntactic component and its interfaces within the Minimalist approach to the architecture of the grammar;
  • General properties (locality, c-command) of the core syntactic operations (movement, merger, and feature checking);
  • Individual characteristics of particular syntactic operations (e.g. A-movement, A′-movement, theta-role assignment, reflexive anaphor binding, verb raising);
  • How cross-linguistic variation is accommodated in the Principles and Parameters model of grammar.
  • Key topics in parametric variation, including null subjects, the split-INFL hypothesis, verb-second, and pronoun position.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate the success of key theoretical concepts in syntax;
  • Use theoretical analysis to reflect further on issues related to the syntactic properties of the 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:

  • Characterise, categorise, and analyse a large body of unfamiliar data;
  • Seek and identify patterns in data, and use these to form hypotheses which may explain them;
  • Organise and present findings and ideas in a concise, logically structured, and coherent manner.


This module will deepen your understanding of syntactic theory within a generative framework, building on the foundations of syntactic theory laid in Year 2, revisiting some topics in greater depth, and introducing advanced topics which have been the subject of key debates within generative syntax. It will focus on the role that syntax plays within the architecture of the human language faculty and how it combines with other components of the grammar (such as morphology and semantics) to generate sentences. Theoretical concepts are outlined in detail and are scrutinised with respect to how successfully they account for empirical data cross-linguistically. You will further your grasp of grammatical categories and their function within sentences, and you will study a range of complex syntactic phenomena from the most up-to-date theoretical perspective in generative grammar (the ‘Minimalist framework’). You will revisit the notion of syntactic movement and extend its scope by analysing Operator Movement, A-Movement and the Movement of Subjects, and you will further your study of parametric variation between languages. You will test in weekly exercises your understanding of syntax by undertaking detailed analyses of the phenomena studied. The Year 2 module LING2003 (Syntax: Studying Language Structure) is a prerequisite. However, if you have not taken this module the topics in syntax covered in the modules FREN108 (Exploring French Linguistics) or SPAN2010 (Exploring Spanish Linguistics) will provide enough of a basis for you to take the module if you are willing to undertake some additional preparatory work at the start of the semester. FREN2018 and SPAN2010 are thus alternative prerequisites for this module, provided that you consult with the module convenor at the start of the module in order to arrange additional readings and practice tasks.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • One lecture per week • One seminar per week involving group work Learning activities include: • Individual reading, collaborative research, practical exercises and reflection. • Developing presentation skills through seminar preparation. Concepts, theories, and supporting linguistic data will be introduced in the lectures. Seminars will be devoted to a more critical analysis of these concepts and theories, with each particular topic explored in greater depth. Further linguistic data will be examined and theories evaluated with respect to them. Weekly reading will introduce you to linguistic phenomena which may pose problems for syntactic theory and will encourage you to consider further the tensions of capturing the widest range of data possible with the most elegant (that is, parsimonious) hypotheses.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Adger, David (2003). Core Syntax. 

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

Chomsky, Noam (1995). The Minimalist Program. 

Radford, Andrew (2004). Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English. 

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


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • Tutor feedback on exercises prepared for seminars; • Sample exam questions for revision. For students without LING2003, FREN2018 or SPAN2010 can count as prerequisites, with some additional preparatory work at the start of the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment  (2000 words) 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

LING2003 or FREN2018 or SPAN2010

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