Approaches to Syntax

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Linguistics

Module overview

This module provides a general introduction to syntactic structure and theory focusing on the principles of generative grammar and syntactic analysis. At the same time different concepts in the study of morphology are introduced and its place within linguistic theory and connection to syntax is discussed.

Building on the principles and methodology introduced in the year 1 module Sound, meaning and grammar, the focus is on the introduction and investigation of particular linguistic phenomena cross-linguistically. The module therefore has a strong empirical component, using data from languages other than English, and considers a variety of constructions from a cross-linguistic perspective.

The module also addresses some of the similarities and differences between different approaches to syntactic theory and how these are related to morphology.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. show familiarity with a range of core phenomena and constructions which have been important in the development of syntactic theory
  2. show familiarity with the ideas and principles of formal syntax
  3. understand how human languages vary and be able to apply syntactic analysis to a range of languages
  4. understand how syntax interacts with other areas of human language, such as morphology and semantics
  5. apply critical thinking to different analyses and models of grammar
  6. discuss the merits and weaknesses of different analyses and models of grammar.


Two classroom hours per week (1 hour lecture, 1 hour tutorial)

Scope and syllabus

This module introduces different linguistic phenomena from a wider perspective without being confined only to a particular theory or approach. Students will be able to critically analyse and contrast different approaches and analyse different phenomena cross-linguistically.

Particular focus in this module will be on describing and analyzing a number of important syntactic phenomena. Examples of such phenomena that will typically be covered include the following:

  • passivization
  • applicative and causative constructions
  • reflexivization
  • control and raising
  • filler-gap relations
  • relativization
  • serial verb constructions
  • quirky subjects and objects
  • ergativity

Method of assessment

  • Work-related practical task and video, 1000 words (40%) due in Term 1
  • Essay, 1500 words (60%) due in Term 2
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • Carnie, Andrew. 2007. Syntax. A Generative Introduction . 2nd Ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Kroeger, Paul. 2004. Analysing Syntax. A Lexical-Functional Approach . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Börjars, Kersti, Rachel Nordlinger & Louisa Sadler. 2019. Lexical-Functional Grammar An Introduction . Cambridge University Press.

Additional relevant reading materials will be distributed throughout the course.


Dr Aicha Belkadi


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules