Friday, November 29, 2019

Drawing Lots: A Pedagogical Activity for Syntax

Here is a pedagogical activity I use to teach syntax from time to time. 

It can be used both in beginning syntax classes and advanced ones. The professor creates slips of paper each with a sentence written on it. Students in the classroom draw these sentences at random from the bunch of slips that the professor clutches in his fist. They then are given a few minutes (5-10 minutes) to think about their sentence. After that, they go to the board to draw the tree and explain any issues that come up. The first set of sentences below is for undergraduate beginning syntax. The second for beginning graduate syntax.

The exercise is meant to be non-competitive. You can break the students into groups so that they can work together. They are also free to consult the professor to ask for hints and advice. 

Grammatical Analysis                                                                               Spring 2019
Lectures 6, 7, 8:         Practice Sentences

John’s mother knows Mary’s.

Her mother is nice.

That crown is the Queen of England’s crown.

For John to win would be good.
(Hint:   for is a complementizer.)

John thinks that he will win.
(Note: John and he do not refer to the same person.)

It seems that we should go out.

No boy took any candy.

The students are eager to begin. 

Whether Mary will be there is unclear.

I ask that he be at the house.

Ask me if I care!

John and Mary will stay in.

We read about the barbarians’ destruction of the city.

I would prefer to do my homework.

I would hate for the dog to eat my homework.

(Hint:   for is a complementizer.)

(This following post is reposted from Facebook, November 29, 2017)
Here is what I did in Syntax I (graduate introduction to syntax) today about control and PRO. I cut up the sentences below into strips. The students each picked one, and then they had to draw it on the board and say what issues it raises. So we played a kind of syntax game. See if you can do it.

1. The chickens are ready to eat.
(The chickens will eat.)
2. The chickens are ready to eat.
(The chickens will be eaten.)
3. Flying planes can be dangerous.
(The planes are dangerous.)
4. Flying planes can be dangerous.
(The flying is dangerous).
5. It was decided to leave.
6. John told Sam how to hold oneself erect at a royal ball.
7. John promised Mary to leave.
8. The chair preferred to gather at 6:00.
9. John persuaded Mary to get themselves a new car.

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