LIN 131: Introduction to Syntactic Theory

Instructor Lecture Day/Time Lecture Hall Email Office Hours Office
Masoud Jasbi Tue + Thu 1:40-3pm Zoom Links and Recordings in Canvas Zoom Tab Fri 1:30-3pm (Book Online!) Zoom Link on Canvas Syllabus Tab
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 Videos Readings Assignments
1 Jan 5 What's Syntax? and ... Why? linguistic data vs. theory, formal models, syntax as a science 1.1 What is syntax
1.2 Rules
1.3 Data
Textbook Ch.1 Quiz 1
7 Videos 2.1 to 2.3
3.1 Structure
3.2 Constituency Tests
Textbook Ch.2+3.4
Wintner (2001) Ch.1
2 12 Regular Languages properties of regular languages, finite-state automata, applications to natural language Intro to Finite State Automota (Optional) Wintner (2001) Ch.2
Saffran, Aslin, Newport (1996)
Quiz 2
14 Intro to Regular Expressions (Optional)
3 19 Context Free Languages derivation, derivation tree, properties of context-free languages, applications to natural language Videos 3.1 to 3.10
Intro to Context Free Grammars (optional)
Textbook Ch.3+4
Wintner (2001) Ch.3+4
Quiz 3
21 Videos 4.1 to 4.5
Intro to Push-Down Automata (optional)
4 26 The X̄ Theory bar-level projections, the general schema, DP hypothesis, TP and CP Videos 6.1 to 6.6
Videos 7.1 to 7.6
Textbook Ch.6+7
Chomsky (1956) (Optional)
Quiz 4
Argument Map 1
5 Feb 2 Argument Structure and Theta Roles thematic relations and theta roles, the lexicon, Extended Projection Principle Videos 8.1 to 8.4
ٰVideos 9.1 to 9.4
Textbook Ch.8+9
Quiz 5: Midterm
6 9 Word Order and Polar Questions typological statistics of word order and polar question marking, head-to-head movement Videos 10.1 and 10.2 Textbook Ch.10
Hahn, Jurafsky, Futrell (2020)
Quiz 6
7 16 Case Systems and Case Theory nominative-accusative, ergative-absolutive, split systems, Case Theory Videos 11.1 to 11.4 Textbook Ch.11
Tanenhaus, Spivey-Knowiton, Eberhard, Sedivy (1995)
Quiz 7
8 23 ّLong Distance Dependencies wh-questions, wh-movement, focus, relative clauses Videos 12.1 to 12.10
Videos 13.1 to 13.3
Textbook Ch.12+13 Quiz 8
Argument Map 2
9 Mar 2 Ellipsis Simple VP ellipsis, antecedent contained deletion, pseudogapping, sluicing Videos 16.1 to 16.4 Textbook Ch.16 Quiz 9
10 9 Alternative Theories Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar Textbook Ch.16+17 Quiz 10: Final

Textbook and Learning Tools

Textbook Syntax: A Generative Introduction (E-book available via UCD Library) Tools Canvas for announcements, assignments, etc.
by Andrew Carnie Piazza for (possibly anonymous) questions (available via Canvas)

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% Each week, post a question, a comment, or a response to someone else's question on the week's readings and videos in Canvas Discussions section. 10 discussions (1 per week) each woth 1%
Critical Thinking 20% Argument Map 20% 2 argument maps on the following two papers (each worth 10%): 1. Saffran, Aslin, Newport (1996) 2. Tanenhaus, Spivey-Knowiton, Eberhard, Sedivy (1995). 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. Your highest grade will be recorded.
Midterm Quiz 10% Similar to weekly quizzes, except that questions are on the materials of weeks 1-5.
Final Quiz 20% Similar to weekly quizzes 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 Late assignments will be graded as though they were not late, but then 5% of the grade earned will be deducted for each day the assignment is late, with a maximum penalty of 50%. All late work must be turned in by the Friday before your final exam. This policy can be waived if lateness is due to medical reasons or other special circumstances.
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+ = 100-97 A = 97-93, A- = 93-90, B+ = 90-87, B = 87-83, B- = 83-80, C+ = 80-77, C = 77-73, C- = 73-70, D+ = 70-67, D = 67-63, D- = 63-60, 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!