The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

24.960 Syntactic Models

24.960 Syntactic Models

Time: Tuesdays 2-5
Place: 32-D461
Website: http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa09/24.960/

The course has twin goals:

First, it gives a quick introduction to at least two “frameworks” for syntactic research that compete with the Government-Binding/Minimalist tradition in the current syntax world: HPSG and Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG). We work speedily through much of the HPSG textbook by Sag, Wasow and Bender, and also look at the LFG textbook by Bresnan.

Next, the class turns historical, tracing the development of generative syntax from Syntactic Structures (1957) up to the early 1980s, when HPSG and LFG first separated themselves off from the research program that became GB/LSLT. An overarching theme of the course is the issue of derivational vs. representational views of syntax — a theme that offers some surprising observations about who said what at various points in the history of the field, but also gives the course a focus relevant to the most current work.

You can get a good sense of what the class will be like from its old Stellar pages: >http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/sp07/24.960/ and http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/24/fa03/24.960/. I plan to follow essentially the same structure, but I will work extra hard to make room for the book by Jackendoff and Culicover, which I did not end up teaching the last two (!) times I announced it and still want very much to.

The requirements are:

  1. regular attendance and participation
  2. problem sets in the first half of the class, and
  3. three class presentations or co-presentations (depending on numbers): of an HPSG paper, an LFG paper, and a paper from the period of generative semantics/interpretive semantics debates

No paper! (A major attraction in the past.)

Many students have reported finding this class both fun and enlightening (and not just because there is no required paper). Ask some of your predecessors for their reviews.

The most important book to order right now is the following one:

  • Sag, Wasow and Bender “Syntactic Theory” (e.g., here or here)

…and please start reading it. It will be great if you come to the first class already somewhat prepared. This book is intended as an introduction to syntax for undergraduates, so you will find the early chapters go quickly. But the syntax it introduces is HPSG, so fairly soon you will be learning new things.

The books we will be using later in the semester are:

  • Bresnan “Lexical-Functional Grammar”
    [Out of print in paperback, but “>available used. I will, however, post relevant parts to Stellar, so we can make do even if you don’t get the book.]
  • Chomsky “Syntactic Structures” (e.g., or here)
  • Culicover and Jackendoff “Simpler Syntax” (e.g., here or here)

Other readings (papers and excerpts from books) will be downloadable from the Stellar website for the class.

Hope to see you there!