LIN 131: Introduction to Syntactic Theory

Instructor Lecture Day/Time Lecture Hall Email Office Hours Office
Masoud Jasbi Tue + Thu 1:40 - 3:00 PM Young Hall194 Fri 1:00 - 2:00 PM Kerr Hall 279 or Zoom (link in Canvas)
Teaching Assistant Discussion Section Day/Time Classroom Email Office Hours Office
Melissa Gomes Wed 12:10 - 1:00PM Giedt Hall1007 1:30-2:30 Wednesdays Kerr Hall 269
Wed 3:10 - 4:00PM Wellman Hall 207


Week Month Date Topic Content Videos Readings Assignments
1 March 29 What's Syntax? and Why?
(Click for Slides)
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
31 Videos 2.1 to 2.3
3.1 Structure
3.2 Constituency Tests
Textbook Ch.2+3.4
Wintner (2001) Ch.1
2 April 5 Regular Languages properties of regular languages, finite-state automata, weak and strong generative capacity, Is natural language regular? Intro to Finite State Automota (Optional) Wintner (2001) Ch.2
Saffran, Aslin, Newport (1996)
Quiz 2
7 Intro to Regular Expressions (Optional)
3 12 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
14 Videos 4.1 to 4.5
Intro to Push-Down Automata (optional)
4 19 Beyond Context Free Grammars The Chomsky Hierarchy, Weak and Strong Generative Capacity of CFGs, Transformational Grammars, Mildly Context Sensitive Grammars and Languages Chomsky (1956) (Optional) Quiz 4
Argument Map 1
5 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
Quiz 5: Midterm
6 May 3 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 6
7 10 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) (optional)
Quiz 7
8 17 ّGrammatical Case 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 8
Argument Map 2
9 24 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 9
10 31 Ellipsis Simple VP ellipsis, antecedent contained deletion, pseudogapping, sluicing Videos 16.1 to 16.4 Textbook Ch.16 Quiz 10: Final
Jun 2

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/comment on the week's readings and videos in Canvas Discussions section. 10 discussions (1 per week) each worth 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.
Deadlines and Late Submission Quizzes, including the midterm, can be taken until the end of the last Friday before exam week. The final quiz will be released for a day during the exam week with multiple attempts similar to other quizzes. Argument Maps must be submitted on the assigned deadline. You can trust the deadliines on Canvas. All work except for the final quiz must be turned in by the end of Friday before the exam week.
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. No titles or last name needed. All pronouns are fine.
Assessment and Grading Our assignments and grading are designed to emphasize "error-driven learning". We want you to make errors, try to figure out what went wrong, correct the errors, and learn that way. This is why you have multiple attempts on quizzes. We also understand that different people learn with different speed. This is why we don't have strict deadlines. In this approach you are in the driver's seat and in charge of your own learning. You decide how much you like to learn and what grade is satisfying to you.
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 Ask all and any question you may have! "Stupid questions" are actually the best ones! They help you and I see where something is not clear or something is misunderstood. So if you think your question is stupid, definitely ask it! I bet others have the same question too!