ELL346 : Advanced Syntax

Convenor(s): Professor Nigel Duffield


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

This third year module is aimed at students who have previously taken Syntax 1 and Syntax 2. Building on the knowledge attained in those modules, it is concerned with exploring issues in current syntactic theory, focussing on developments in the Minimalist framework (Chomsky 1995, 1998). Minimalism views syntactic theory as a theory of 'interfaces': the module takes up this theme, examining the inter-relationship between syntactic, semantic and phonological information within grammar, as well as with pragmatics and information structure outside of core grammar (in the strict sense). Our focus is explicitly comparative, probing the formal limits on grammatical variation across languages.


Given the projected small class size and the level of the module, each contact hour will involve a formal lecture period as well as a more free-form discussion/problem-solving period, the goal being to help students develop their own investigative skills in syntax, and to explore the workings of the theory by working through particular problem sets. Since a major part of the assessment is an original analysis of (new or familiar) syntactic phenomena, students will be encouraged to use class time to discuss core theoretical issues closely in order to identify potential topics of research. The lecture component will involve the presentation of key theoretical concepts, including especially the notions of syntactic interfaces, long-distance dependencies, Agreement, Control and Thematic Relations in phrase structure. The discussion section topics will follow from the lectures, and will involve take-home exercises. Preparation of these exercises will check and aid understanding of the lectures: their primary function, however, is to provide an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to a range of appropriate data, enabling students to do syntactic analysis and to facilitate their work on the final project.


Assessment for this module is based on a final essay of approximately 2,500 words (50%), plus a midterm take-home problem set (25%) and a inclass presentation and short critical review (750 words) of a relevant journal article. The final essay will be due on the first day of the examination period. The midterm problem set will be made available at the end of week 4 and will be due at the end of reading week. The paper presentation will take place in the last four weeks of the teaching term.

Contact Details

Professor Nigel Duffield, 0114 222 0233


Information last changed: Monday 10th of August 2015 :: 12:40:00 PM (BST)


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK