Friday, June 16, 2017

Syntax II (graduate level) (Spring 2017)

Here is the syllabus for my graduate Syntax II course, Spring 2017. I would be happy to receive feedback, or talk about it.

Syllabus         Syntax II (Syntactic Theory and Analysis)                       LING-GA 2310
Spring 2017

Instructor:     Professor Chris Collins
Office:             10 Washington Place, Room 411
Phone:            28763
Time:              T/TH 12:30 - 1:45pm
Place:              10 Washington Place, Room 103
Office Hours: by appointment

Course Description:
Syntax I and II together form a comprehensive introduction to syntactic theory, in the framework of Principles and Parameters and Minimalism.
Syntax I is concerned with phrase structure, argument structure (unaccusatives, unergatives, transitives, double object constructions, psych-verbs), Case and agreement (Agree), A-movement (passives, raising constructions), head movement, binding and control.
Syntax II will cover A’-movement, the left periphery, differences between A- and A’-movement, weak and strong crossover, remnant movement, successive cyclic movement, general constraints on movement (minimalist conception of phases, relativized minimality), that-trace effects, the adjunct/argument asymmetry, covert movement (QR, Wh-in situ) and multiple wh-questions.
Emphasis will be on reading the primary literature and writing a research paper.

Course Requirements

I have carefully planned the syllabus so that you have at most one reading per class, and sometimes only one reading per week. I have also indicated additional optional readings for people who want to continue looking into the topic. Since the number of assigned readings is few, you should plan read the assigned papers before class and be ready to discuss them in class.

Problem Sets
There will be short problem sets in the first half of the semester. Problem sets will be assigned on Thursday and due the following Thursday. You may discuss the homework problems together, but the actual written work must be your own.

Small Group Presentation
Each student will be in a small group of two that will be responsible for presenting one paper during the semester. In your presentation, you should summarize the main data and arguments of the paper. In addition, you should think of discussion questions, connections to other readings, and if possible, additional data that bears on the proposals in the paper. You should arrange to see me the week before your presentation to show me your handout and discuss any questions you have about the material.

Individual Meeting
In the beginning of the semester (around the third week), each student will meet with me to discuss their paper topic. What area do you find interesting? Have you already identified some problem or data that you want to work on?

Paper Proposal
Halfway through the semester, you will submit a paper proposal for your final paper. The proposal should be around 3 pages (double-spaced) long. It should include a statement of the topic, some data (just a few sentences), a brief sketch of an analysis, a plan for working on the topic and a few references that you plan to study. Paper proposals will be distributed to the whole class, and one of your colleagues will be in charge of providing written feedback on your proposal. We will spend one or two class periods discussing the proposals.

Final Presentation
Students will present their papers during the last week of class. Each presentation should last around 15 minutes, with an additional 5 minutes for discussion.

Final Paper
A significant focus of the course is the final paper, which should be around 15 pages (double spaced) long. Your aim should be to write a paper that will provide a solid foundation for future work (e.g., a syntax qualifying paper, a conference presentation or a published article). We will work on it throughout the semester.

Assignments                                       40%
            Small Group Presentation                   10%
            Paper Proposal/Commentary               10%
            Final Presentation                                10%
            Final Paper                                          30%

Course Materials
You are not required to purchase any materials for this class. All readings will be posted to Dropbox. For people who need background reading, the following textbook is recommended:

Dominique Sportiche, Hilda Koopman and Ed Stabler. 2014. An Introduction to Syntactic Analysis and Theory.

This book is available online through NYU. It is also available at a reasonable price on

The schedule may be revised. The dates may change. Topics and readings may be dropped and/or added depending on our progress and the interest of the students.

Week 1:          Jan. 24, 26
            Tuesday:        Syllabus, Outline of Minimalist Syntax,
A Brief History of Generative Grammar.
            Thursday:      Merge and Remnant Movement

Muller, Gereon. 1998. Incomplete Category Fronting. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht. [chapter 1]

Collins, Chris and Edward Stabler. 2013. A Formalization of Minimalist Syntax. Syntax.

Week 2:          Jan. 31, Feb. 2
            Tuesday:        A vs. A’-Movement
            Thursday:      A vs. A’-Movement (cont.)

            Homework 1: Assigned Feb. 2, due Feb. 9

Culicover, Peter. 2001. Parasitic Gaps: A History. In Culicover and
Postal (eds.), Parastic Gaps. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Lasnik, Howard and Tim Stowell. 1991. Weakest Crossover. Linguistic Inquiry 22.4,

Obata, Miki and Samuel David Epstein. 2011. Feature-Splitting, Internal Merge:
Improper Movement, Intervention, and the A/A’ Distinction. Syntax 14.2, 122-147.

Takahashi, Shoichi and Sarah Hulsey. 2009. Wholesale Late Merger: Beyond the A/A’ Distinction. Linguistic Inquiry 40, pgs. 387-426.
[This article accounts for Condition C reconstruction effects in A and A’ movement in terms of Late Merger.]

Barss, Andrew. 2001. Syntactic Reconstruction Effects. In Mark Baltin and Chris Collins (eds.), The Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory. Blackwell.

Week 3:          Feb. 7, 9
            Tuesday:        Islands: Background
            Thursday:      Islands: Successive Cyclic Movement
                                    [Possible student presentation: McCloskey 2002]

            Homework 2: Assigned Feb. 9, due Feb. 16

ISAT [chapter 10: Wh-Questions: Wh-Movement and Locality]

McCloskey, James. 2002. Resumption, Successive Cyclicicty, and the Locality of
Operations. In Derivation and Explanation in the Minimalist Program. Edited by
Samuel Epstein and Daniel Seeley. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Chomsky, Noam. 1977. On Wh-Movement. In Peter Culicover, Thomas Wasow and Adrian Akmajian (eds.), Formal Syntax, 71-132. Academic Press, New York.

Collins, Chris. 1994. Economy of Derivation and the Generalized Proper Binding Condition. Linguistic Inquiry 25.1, 45-61. [This paper gives an example of a reflex of successive cyclic movement in Ewe.]

McCloskey, James. 2000. Quantifier Float and Wh-Movement in an Irish English. Linguistic Inquiry 31, 57-84.

van Urk, Coppe and Norvin Richards. 2015. Two Components of Long Distance Extraction: Successive Cyclicity in Dinka. Linguistic Inquiry 46, 113-155.

Week 4:          Feb. 14, 16
            Tuesday:        Pied-Piping
                                    [Possible student presentation: Cable 2013]
            Thursday:      That-Trace
                                    [Possible Student Presentation: Pesetsky 2016]

Cable, Seth. 2013. Pied-Piping: Introducing Two Recent Approaches. Language and Linguistic Compass 6, pgs. 816-832.

Pesetsky, David. 2016. Complementizer-trace effects. Ms., MIT.

Sobin, Nicholas. 1987. The Variable Status of Comp-Trace Phenomena. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 5, pgs. 33-60.
Week 5:          Feb. 21, 23
            Tuesday:        Anti-Locality
                                    [Possible student presentation: Erlewine 2016]
            Thursday:      Anti-Locality (cont.)

            Homework 3: Assigned Feb. 23, due March 2

Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka. 2016. Anti-locality and optimality in Kaqchikel Agent Focus. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34: 429-479.

Week 6:          Feb. 28, Mar. 2
Tuesday:        Islands: Asymmetries
                                    (Adjunct/Argument asymmetry)
            Thursday:      Islands: Asymmetries (cont.)
                                    (anti-pronominal contexts)

            Homework 4: Assigned March 2, due March 9

Rizzi, Luigi. 2001. Relativized Minimality Effects. In Mark Baltin and Chris Collins (eds.), The Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory, 89-110. Blackwell, Oxford.

Postal, Paul. 1998. Three Investigations of Extraction. MIT Press, Cambridge. [Chapter 2, Chapter 3 [section 3.2.2], Appendix A: Mistaking Selective Islands for Non-islands]

Collins, Chris. 1991. Why and How Come. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 15, 31-45.

Rizzi, Luigi. 1990. Relativized Minimality. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Ross, John Robert. 1984. Inner Islands. In Claudia Brugman and Monica McCaulay (eds.), Berkeley Linguistics Society, Berkeley, California.

Week 7:          Mar. 7, 9
            Tuesday:        Left Periphery: Basics
                                    [Possible Student Presentation: Haegeman 2012:  chapter 1]
            Thursday:      Left Periphery: Overt Top and Foc Heads
                                    [Possible Student Presentation: Aboh 2004: chapters 7,8]

Haegeman, Liliane. 2012. Adverbial Clauses, Main Clause Phenomena, and the Composition of the Left Periphery. The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Volume 8. Oxford Uuniversity Press, Oxford. [read chapter 1:  Background: The Articulated Structure of the Left Periphery.]

Aboh, Enoch. 2004. The Morphosyntax of Complement-Head Sequences. Oxford
University Press. [chapter 7: Focus and Wh Constructions, chapter 8: Argument Topics
and Yes-No Questions]

Rizzi, Luigi. 1997. The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery. In Haegeman, Liliane (ed.),
Elements of Grammar, 281-337. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.

            Due:    Paper Proposals
Note: Send your proposal to the other students in the class. Be ready for discussion on Monday, March 21.

Week 8:          Mar. 14, 16     [Spring Break]

Week 9:          Mar. 21, 23
            Tuesday:        Discuss Paper Proposals.
            Thursday:      Discuss Paper Proposals (cont.)

            Reading:        Each student is required to read all the proposals by the other students.

Due:    Each student is required to provide written feedback to one other student on their proposal before March 21 (e-mailed by March 20th at the latest). The written comments should be 1-2 pages (double spaced).

Week 10:        Mar. 28, 30
            Tuesday:        Quantifier Raising: Basics
            Thursday:      Quantifier Raising (cont.)

May, Robert. 1977. Grammar of Quantification. Doctoral Dissertation, MIT [Chapter 1]

Fox, Danny. 2003. On Logical Form. In Randall Hendrick (ed.), Minimalist Syntax, 82-123. Blackwell, MA. (

Kayne, Richard. 1998. Overt vs. Covert Movement. Syntax 1.2, 128-191.

Week 11:        April 4,6
Tuesday:        Quantifier Raising
                        [Possible Student Presentation: Beghelli and Stowell 1997]
            Thursday:      Quantifier Raising: Locality
                                    [Possible Student Presentation: Breuning 2001]

Beghelli, Filippo and Tim Stowell. 1997. Distributivity and Negation: The Syntax of Each and Every. In Anna Szabolcsi (ed.), Ways of Taking Scope, 71-107.

Breuning, Benjamin. 2001. QR Obeys Superiority: ACD and Frozen Scope. Linguistic Inquiry 32,: 233-273.

Week 12:        April 11, 13
            Tuesday:        Wh-in-Situ: Overview
            Thursday:      Wh-in-Situ: Richards 2001
[Possible Student Presentation: Richards 2001, chapters 1 and 2]

Richards, Norvin. 2001. Movement in Language. Oxford University Press, Oxford. [chapter 1: Introduction, chapter 2: Subjacency Forever, chapter 3: Featural Cyclicity and the Ordering of Multiple Specifiers].

Huang, James. 1982. Move Wh in a Language without Wh-Movement. The Linguistic Review 1, 369-416.

Watanabe, Akira. 2001. Wh-in-Situ Languages. In Mark Baltin and Chris Collins (eds.), The Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory, 203-225. Blackwell.

Week 13:        April 18, 20
Tuesday:        Wh-in-Situ: Pesetsky 2000
            Thursday:      Wh-in-Situ (cont.)

Pesetsky, David. 2000. Phrasal Movement and its Kin. MIT Press, Cambridge. [selected sections]

Week 14:        April 25, 27
            Tuesday:        Scope Freezing with Negated Quantifiers
            Thursday:      Scope Freezing with Negated Quantifiers

Collins, Chris. 2015. Not even. Natural Language Semantics.

Week 15:        May 2, 4
            Tuesday:        Final Presentations
Thursday:      Final Presentations

            Due:    Final paper is due on Friday, May 6th.

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