English 444/544: Syntax
Spring 2017

Time: MWF 2:10-3    
Location: Avery 102

Instructor: Dr. Lynn Gordon
Office: Avery 347        Telephone: 5-2117/2-2591            E-mail Address: lynn.gordon@wsu.edu
Office Hours: W 3-5 and by appointment        
Textbook: An Introduction to English Sentence Structure, Andrew Radford (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Course Description: The purpose of this class is to learn about modern syntactic theory and analysis based on examining a range of structures (of different periods, developmental stages and dialects) of English (mostly). The best way to learn a system of analysis is to do it and so we'll be doing a lot of it. We will be employing a Minimalist approach, which is the most recent theoretical descendant of generative syntax. This course has no prerequisites and does not assume that students have any prior syntactic or, more generally, linguistic training.

Learning Objectives:  By the end of the semester, English 444 and 544 students will be able to 
explain the goals and overall structure of one standard theoretical model for syntax, Chomsky's Minimalist framework;
discuss topics like universal grammar, parameters, learnability, and innateness within that model.
apply analyses developed in class for a substantial range of English data to unfamiliar examples, producing and explaining formal representations, covering topics like null constituents, Binding Theory, Head Movement, and Wh-Movement;
apply the Minimalist model to analyze unfamiliar, but fairly straightforward syntactic structures; and
make and assess arguments supporting old and new analyses within the Minimalist model.

In addition English 544 students will be able to
analyze moderately large data sets showing complex and unfamiliar syntactic structures, producing a clear and well-supported analysis; and
produce and support derivations of a wide range of complex structures within the Minimalist model.

Tentative Class Schedule:  We'll go as fast we can, but since our goal is to learn something that is very new to all of the students, we will see just how fast that is as we go along.  The schedule therefore is subject to revision without debate.
  • Do at least one pass of each reading by the beginning of the period; expect to have to read each assignment at least three times: once before the discussion begins, once during the discussion and once afterward. 
  • Be prepared to discuss the reading and the exercises in the workbook section of each chapter assigned in class.  
  • Ask questions about the reading and the exercises as we go along.
 Period       Topics        
 Wks 1-2  Class business (syllabus, expectations, etc).   Language, linguistics and syntax; goals of syntactic theory, universal grammar, parameter setting Chapter 1
 Wks 2-4 Constituents, merger, structure and structural relationships                                Chapter 2
 Wks 5-8 Evidence for null constituents of different types Chapter 3 
 Wks 9-11 Movement as copying and deletion; properties of head movement; constraints on movement and head movement in particular Chapter 4
 Wks 12-15   More movement: properties of and constraints on wh- movement Chapter 5 

Homework: There will be regular homework, graded credit/no credit. Feel free to talk about your homework (and anything in the class other than the final exam) with each other (and me, of course); however, you must write up your homework separately. Your homework will be accepted only at the time due or before--even if you feel your attempt is unsatisfactory, turn it in. No homework will be accepted late (unless there is a major disaster which calls you out of school; colds, the press of other classes, or the general difficulties of life do not constitute major disasters). If you do not turn in an assignment on time, your grade for that assignment will be 0.  If you turn in the homework and it has major problems, you will be allowed to revise it for credit.  If you turn in the homework on time without major problems, you will get full credit.

Quizzes:  The quizzes will take place every few weeks--whenever I feel like a testable amount of material has been dealt with. They will typically be announced one class session in advance, but they can occur without prior notice. The quizzes take the place of a midterm exam. The quizzes are all open-note. No individual quiz will be worth, but as a group they represent about a third of your course grade

Attendance: You must make your own decisions as an adult whether or not to come to class. However, you should realize that coming to class is part of your job as a student, as is completing the homework on time and passing the quizzes and the final exam. Just coming to class will make meeting your other responsibilities in this class easier.  I do not take attendance in this class, but I do reserve the right to give an attendance quiz (worth 50% of a regular quiz) without warning if the attendance in class falls too low.  

Final Exam: The final exam will be take-home and due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday of Finals Week (3 May).

Grading: The class grades will be based on completion of the homework and participation in class discussion and analysis, and performance on the quizzes and final exam.   544 students will also have an extended syntax problem to complete.
Homework and class exercises
Extended problem
Take-home final exam           
444: 20% 
444: 40%  
444: n/a  
444: 40%
544: 15%
544: 35%
544: 10%
544: 40%

University Announcements

  • Students with Disabilities: Reasonable accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities or chronic medical conditions. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Access Center website to follow published procedures to request accommodations: http://www.accesscenter.wsu.edu. Students may also either call or visit the Access Center in person to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. Location: Washington Building 217; Phone: 509-335-3417. All disability related accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center. Students with approved accommodations are strongly encouraged to visit with instructors early in the semester during office hours to discuss logistics. 

    For more information contact a Disability Specialist: 509-335-3417, e-mail Access.Center@wsu.edu


  • Academic Integrity: Academic integrity is the cornerstone of higher education. As such, all members of the university community share responsibility for maintaining and promoting the principles of integrity in all activities, including academic integrity and honest scholarship. Academic integrity will be strongly enforced in this course. Students who violate WSU’s Academic Integrity Policy (identified in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 504-26-010(3) and -404) will fail the assignment, quiz or exam; if the violation is repeated or very serious (copying an entire quiz or homework assignment or cheating on the final exam, for example), you will fail the class, you will not have the option to withdraw from the course pending an appeal, and you will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct. 

    Cheating includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration as defined in the Standards of Conduct for Students, WAC 504-26-010(3). You need to read and understand all of the definitions of cheating: http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=504-26-010
    If you have any questions about what is and is not allowed in this course, you should ask course instructors before proceeding. 

    If you wish to appeal a faculty member's decision relating to academic integrity, please use the form available at conduct.wsu.edu


  • Grade Appeals: According to the Education Policies and Procedures Manual (EPPM), “Students having complaints about instruction or grading should refer them first to the instructor. If the complaint is not resolved, then the student may refer the complaint in writing to the chairperson of the department in which the course is offered by the end of the last day of the following semester.”


  • Safety and Emergency Notification: Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act,” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for an active shooter incident. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able). Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU. For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight video and visit the WSU safety portal.



  • E-Mail: In compliance with WSU policy, I can only respond to e-mail sent from your WSU e-mail address (the address in your myWSU account). I cannot respond to e-mail sent from non-WSU accounts.