LIN 131: Introduction to Syntactic Theory

Instructor Lecture Day/Time Lecture Hall Email Office Hours Office
Masoud Jasbi Tue + Thu 1:40-3pm Zoom Zoom
Teaching Assistant Discussion Section Day/Time Classroom Email Office Hours Office
Claire Henderson Wed 2:10-3pm (A01) / 3:10-4pm (A02) Zoom Zoom


Week Month Date Topic Content Readings Assignments
1 Jan 5 What's Syntax? and ... Why? language structure, linguistic data vs. theory Textbook Ch. 1 Quiz 1
2 12 Word Classes diognostics, phrases, grammatical categories Textbook Ch. 2 Quiz 2
3 19 Sentence finiteness, matrix vs. subordinate clauses, clause types Textbook Ch. 3 Quiz 3
4 26 Heads and Dependents properties of heads, head-final vs. head-initial, head vs. dependent marking Textbook Ch. 4
Futrell, Mahowald, Gibson (2015)
Quiz 4
Argument Map 1
5 Feb 2 Formal Grammars Finite State Grammar, Context Free (Phrase Structure) Grammar Chomsky (1956) Quiz 5: Midterm
6 9 Constituents and Phrases constituency tests, tree diagrams, the X̄ Schema Textbook Ch. 5 Quiz 6
7 16 Word Order and Grammatical Relations basic vs. marked order, statistical patterns, subjects and objects Textbook Ch. 6
Hahn, Jurafsky, Futrell (2020)
Quiz 7
8 23 Case and Agreement nominative-accusative, ergative-absolutive, split systems Quiz 8
Argument Map 2
9 Mar 2 Relation Altering Processes Passives, Antipassives, applicatives, causatives Textbook Ch. 7 Quiz 9
10 9 Long Distance Dependencies Wh-questions, Focus, Relative Clauses Textbook Ch. 8 Quiz 10: Final

Textbook and Learning Tools

Textbook Understanding Syntax (Online Version available via UCD Library) Tools Canvas, mainly for announcements and assignments (quizzes)
by Maggie Tallerman Piazza for (possibly anonymous) questions, comments, and discussions. Search for Lin 131: Introduction to Syntactic Theory when you sign in and enroll as a student.

Course Objectives

Objective Course Component
1 Introduce the basic concepts in the analysis of language structure Readings, Lectures
4 Practice syntactic analysis and formal modeling Assignments, Midterm, Final Exam, Discussion Sections
3 Practice critical and scientific thinking Argument Maps, Reading Reactions


Participation 10% Discussion Forum 10% Post questions, response to questions, or comments about the week's readings on the Canvas Discussions Section. 10 discussions (1 per week) each 1%
Critical Thinking 20% Argument Map 20% 2 argument maps on the following two papers (each worth 10%): 1. Futrell, Mahowald, Gibson (2015) 2. Hahn, Jurafsky, Futrell (2020) Take a look at this introduction to argument maps and how we use them in this class.
Analytic Skills 70%
Weekly Quizzes 40% 8 weekly quizzes on Canvas, 5% each. Questions come from the readings of the week and lecture materials. Each quiz has several question-types (covering a specific sub-topic of the week) and the exact questions in that question-type are randomly selected from a bank of questions. You can re-take quizzes until you feel good and confident about your grade and what you have learned.
Midterm Quiz 10% Similar to weekly quizzes, except that questions are on the materials of weeks 1-5.
Final Quiz 20% Similar to weekly questions and the midterm except that the questions are on all of the course content.
OR, alternatively, write a research paper (6-10 pages). Students who choose this option should meet with Masoud to discuss their research topic and propose a timeline.
Late Submission All assignments must be turned in before the end of the exam period.
Submission Format Submit your assignments using Canvas. Quizzes can be found in the Quizzes section and argument maps can be uploaded and submitted in the Assignments section. If an answer is handwritten and cannot be determined due to illegibility, no points are assigned to that answer. Do not include your name or any identifying information in the assignments. In order to avoid grading biases, all grading is done either automatically or anonymously.
Grading We use the following grading scale:
A = 100-94, A- = 94-90, B+ = 90-87, B = 87-84, B- = 84-80, C+ = 78-77, C = 77-74, C- = 74-70, D+ = 70-67, D = 67-64, D- = 64-60, F = 60-0.
For any submission, if you believe there have been grading mistakes, you can ask for re-grading. The assignment will be graded by a new grader and the second grade will be recorded.
Integrity We follow the UC Davis code of academic conduct. You are permitted to work together on the argument maps but you must write up and submit your own maps. You are expected to do the quizzes individually.
Accessibility Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the UC Davis Student Disability Center. Professional staff will evaluate the request, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare a letter of accommodation for the faculty. Students should contact the SDC as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.
Addressing the Instructor I prefer Masoud and he/his/him for pronouns. No titles or last name needed.
Participation We believe that our class benefits enormously from you sharing your thoughts and questions. Your background, life experiences, knowledge, thoughts, and ideas make you unique, and our classroom diverse. This diversity of perspectives is the foundation of learning in a classroom. At a larger scale and within a scientific community, it is also a major contributor to scientific progress. Therefore, sharing your thoughts and questions can help us learn and build a wider, stronger community of scholars.

Some of you may worry that your classmate's asking questions and sharing ideas may disrupt the class progress. Judging when to ask a question or share an idea is tricky but also part of education. Instead of discouraging it, we would like to practice it together. Here is flowchart that you might find useful. Ultimately, we trust your judgments.
Questions We genuinly believe that there are no "stupid" questions in a classroom. The point of going to a class is to learn together and questions are our best tool to achieve that. It is easy to show that your question will help us learn no matter what. Your question is either:
(1) not framed well; in which case you give us a chance to explain the topic better. Chances are we did not explain it well the first time and many of your classmates are wondering about it too.
(2) framed well and has an answer we know; in which case we can help you as well as your classmates who have the same question learn it too! You have also helped us consolidate our knowledge by explaining it again.
(3) framed well but has an answer we do not know; in which case we can find the answer together and your question has helped all of us learn!
(4) framed well and does not have an answer yet; in which case you found a research topic someone can start working on and benefit the field!
As you see, your question has helped our learning either way. So please ask!