Sunday, August 9, 2020

Gender Balance in a Syntax I Syllabus

This blog post addresses the issue of gender (im)balance in creating a syllabus for Syntax I, the first semester of the graduate introduction to syntax at NYU.

In preparation for Fall 2020, I have been putting together my syllabus for Syntax I, which is the first semester of the two semester graduate introduction to syntax. Syntax I usually addresses issues in phrase structure, argument structure and A-movement. Syntax II usually addresses issues in A'-movement.

I put together this syllabus with no thought of gender balance. For each subject, I just chose what I thought would be a valuable or interesting reading. In general, I try to think of new readings each year to keep the course fresh and relevant. But when I had finished putting it together, I counted the male and female authors and found that roughly 2/3 of the authors were male and 1/3 female. After noticing this imbalance, I did not make any further changes to the syllabus.

My first question is whether this imbalance actually reflects an imbalance in the work that has been done in syntax. Maybe the proportion end up as 2/3 M and 1/3 F because that is roughly the proportion of work that exists on the topics listed in the Syntax I syllabus. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but it is worthwhile asking the question.

My second question is whether people can think of further titles to help me address the gender imbalance. So these titles would satisfy the following criteria: (a) They would be written by or co-written with a female author. (b) They would fall in the topics listed on the syllabus. (c) They would  important, influential or pedagogically useful contributions to a graduate introduction to syntax.

Here is the rough draft of the syllabus:

Syntax I Syllabus                              Fall 2020                                            LING-GA1310

Instructor:     Professor Chris Collins
Office: 10 Washington Place, Room 411
Phone:            2-8763
Time:              MW 12:30 – 1:45pm
Place:              10Washington Place, Room 103
Office Hours: (by appointment)

Course Description:
Syntax I and II together form a comprehensive introduction to the concepts and principles of syntactic theory, in the framework of Principles and Parameters and Minimalist Syntax.
Syntax I is concerned with phrase structure, argument structure (unaccusatives, unergatives, transitives, double object constructions), 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 in both Syntax I and II is 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. 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 to read the assigned papers before class and be ready to discuss them in class.

Problem Sets
You may work on problem sets together, but all written work must be your own (e.g., you cannot copy the wording of your classmate and submit it as your own work). Problem sets must be typed on a word processor (not hand-written).

Each student will be responsible for presenting one paper during the semester. In your presentation, you should summarize the main data and arguments. 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 to 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? Please look through syllabus and readings before our meeting.

Final Paper Proposal
Halfway through the semester, you will submit a proposal for your final research paper. The proposal should be around 3 pages long (double spaced). It should include a statement of the topic, some data (just a few sentences), a brief sketch of an analysis (if you have one), 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 you written feedback. We will spend one class period discussing the proposals.

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 QP, a conference paper or a published article). We will work on it throughout the semester.

Grading          Attendance and participation               10%
                        Assignments                                       30%     [only in first half of semester]
                        Paper Proposal                                    10%
                        Presentation in Class                          10%
                        Final Paper                                          40%

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

 Koopman, Hilda, Dominique Sportiche, 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 interests of the students. “Flex Day” means that the topic for the day is flexible, depending on our progress during the semester.

Week 1:          Sept. 7 (Labor Day – no class), 9 (Legislative Day Monday Schedule)  
Monday:        no class
Wednesday:   Syllabus, Outline of Minimalist Syntax

Collins, Chris and Edward Stabler. 2016. A Formalization of Minimalist Syntax. Syntax 19, 43-78.

Chomsky, Noam. 2019. UCLA Lectures
Chomsky, Noam, Angel J. Gallego and Dennis Ott. 2019. Generative Grammar and the Faculty of Language: Insights, Questions and Challenges. Catalan Journal of Linguistics Special Issue, 229-261.
Week 2:          Sept. 14, 16    Phrase Structure and Labeling
Monday:        Labeling
Wednesday:   Labeling

Chomsky, Noam. 2013. Problems of Projection. Lingua 130, 33-49.

Chomsky, Noam. 2015. Problems of Projection: Extensions, In Structures, strategies and beyond: Studies in honour of Adriana Belletti, ed. by Elisa Di Domenico, Cornelia Hamann, and Simona Matteini, 3-16. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Collins, Chris. 2002 . Eliminating Labels. In Samuel Epstein and Daniel Seely (eds.), Derivation and Explanation in the Minimalist Program, 43-64. Blackwell.

Epstein, Samuel, Hisatsugu Kitahara and Daniel Seely. 2017. Merge, labeling and their interactions. In L. Bauke and A. Blümel (eds.), Labels and Roots, 17–46. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin.
Epstein, Samuel, Kitahara, Hisatsugu and Daniel Seely. 2014.  Labeling by Minimal Search: Implications for successive cyclic A-movement and the conception of the postulate 'phase’. Linguistic Inquiry 45:3.
Rizzi, Luigi. 2016. Labeling, maximality, and the head-phrase distinction. The Linguistic Review 33(1), 103-127.
For additional references, see:

Week 3:          Sept. 21, 23    Head Movement
Monday:        Head Movement: Basics
Wednesday:   Head Movement: General Issues

Dekany, Eva. 2018. Approaches to Head Movement: A Critical Assessment. Glossa 3(1), 65.
Harizanov, Boris and Vera Gribanova. 2019. Whither head movement. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 37, pgs. 461-522.

Lasnik, Howard. 1995. The Forms of Sentences. An Invitation to Cognitive Science: Language, Vol. 1, 283-310. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Pollock, Jean-Yves. 1989. Verb Movement, Universal Grammar, and the Structure of
IP. Linguistic Inquiry 20.3: 365-424 [especially sections 1-3].

Week 4:          Sept. 28, 30
Monday:        External Arguments
Wednesday:   External Arguments

Kratzer, Angelika. 1996. Severing the external argument from its verb. In J. Rooryck and L. Zaring (eds.), Phrase Structure and the Lexicon, 109-137. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Ramchand, Gillian. 2008. Verb Meaning and the Lexicon, A First Phase Syntax. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Week 5:          Oct. 5, 7
Monday:        Antisymmetry
Wednesday:   Greenberg’s Universal 20 (Class Exercise)

Assignment:  On Wednesday October 7 students will come to class prepared to show how Cinque 2005 applies to their selected language. Written work will be due Monday October 12.

Cinque, Guglielmo. 2005. Deriving Greenberg’s Universal 20 and its Exceptions. Linguistic Inquiry 36.3, 315-332.

Kayne, Richard. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. MIT Press, Cambridge.

Carstens, Vicki. 2017. Noun-to-Determiner Movement. In Martin van Everaert and Henk van Riemsdjik (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Syntax, Second Edition. John Wiley and Sons.

Week 6:          Oct. 12, 14     
Monday:        Case Theory: Basics
Wednesday:   Case Theory: Dependent Case

Pesetsky, David and Esther Torrego. 2011. Case. In Cedric Boeckx (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Minimalism, 52-72. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Baker, Mark. 2015. Case: Its Principles and Parameters. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Marantz, Alec. 2000. Case and Licensing. Proceedings of ESCOL, 234–253.
Cornell Linguistics Club. Republished in Reuland (2000), 11–30.

Vergnaud, Jean-Roger. 1977. Letter to Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik. In Robert Freidin, Carlos P. Otero and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta (eds.), Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory: Essays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud, 3-15. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Week 7:          Oct. 19, 21      Binding Theory
Monday:        Binding Theory: Basics
Wednesday:   Binding Theory: Reconstruction

SKS Chapter 7: Binding Theory, Chapter 13: Advanced Binding and Some Typology.

Sportiche, Dominque. 2017. Reconstruction, Binding and Scope. In Martin van Everaert and Henk van Riemsdjik (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Syntax, Second Edition. John Wiley and Sons.

Barss, Andrew. 2001. Syntactic Reconstruction Effects. In Baltin and Collins (eds.), The Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory, 670-696. Blackwell.

Heycock, Caroline. 1995. Asymmetries in Reconstruction. Linguistic Inquiry 26, 547-570.

Week 8:          Oct. 26, 28     
Monday:        Binding Theory: Exempt Anaphors
Wednesday:   Discussion of Paper Proposals

Due:    Paper Proposals due Monday October 26.
Note: Please be ready for discussion on Wednesday, October 28.

Charnavel, Isabelle. 2019. Locality and Logophoricity: A Theory of Exempt Anaphora. Oxford University Press. [Available electronically in Bobst Library]

Charnavel, Isabelle and Chrissy Zlogar. 2015. English Reflexive Logophors. Proceedings of CLS 51, 83-97.

Week 9:          Nov. 2, 4         Double Object Constructions
Monday:        Double Object Constructions: Basics
Wednesday:   Double Object Constructions: High and Low Applicatives

Barss, Andrew and Howard Lasnik. 1986. A Note on Anaphors and Double Objects. Linguistic Inquiry 17: 347-354.

Pylkkänen, Liina. 2008. Introducing Arguments. Cambridge: MIT Press.
[Chapter 1 and Section 2.1]

Larson, Richard. 1988. On the Double Object Construction. Linguistic Inquiry 19, 335-391.

McGinnis, Martha. 2017. Applicatives. In Martin van Everaert and Henk van Riemsdjik (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Syntax, Second Edition. John Wiley and Sons.

Week 10:        Nov. 9, 11
Monday:        Double Object Constructions: Dative Alternation
Wednesday:   [Flex Day]

Collins, Chris. 2017. A Smuggling Approach to the Dative Alternation. Ms., NYU.

Rappaport Hova, Malka and Beth Levin. 2008. The English Dative Alternation: the Case for Verb Sensitivity. Journal of Linguistics 44, 129-167.

Week 11:        Nov. 16, 18
Monday:        Unaccusatives and Unergatives
Wednesday:   Unaccusatives and Unergatives

Levin, Beth and Malka Rappaport Hovav. 1995. Chapter 2 in Unaccusativity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Pullum, Geoffrey K. 1988. Citation Etiquette beyond Thunderdome. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 6, pgs. 579-588.

Kayne, Richard. 1993. Toward a Modular Theory of Auxiliary Selection. Studia Linguistica 47, 3-31.

Perlmutter, David. 1989. Multiattachment and the Unaccusative Hypothesis: the Perfect Auxiliary in Italian. Probus 1, 63-119.

Week 12:        Nov. 23, 25
[Thanksgiving Recess is Nov. 26-27]
Monday:        Raising and Control: Basics
Wednesday:   No class

Davies, William D. and Stanley Dubinsky. 2004. The Grammar of Raising and Control: A Course in Syntactic Argumentation. Blackwell, MA. [Chapters 1-3]

Postal, Paul. On Raising. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Week 13:        Nov. 30, Dec. 2           Control and Raising (cont.)
Monday:        Control as Movement            
Wednesday:   [Flex Day]

Hornstein, Norbert and Jairo Nunes. 2014. Minimalism and Control. In Andrew Carnie, Yosuke Sato and Daniel Siddiqi (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Syntax, 239-263.  Routledge, New York.

Landau, Idan. 2013. Control in Generative Grammar: A Research Companion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [section 2.4]

Hornstein, Norbert. 1999. Movement and Control. Linguistic Inquiry 30, 1: 69-96.

Week 14:        Dec. 7, 9          Passive
[Last Day of Fall 2020 Classes is Sunday, December 13]
Monday:        External Argument is not Projected
Wednesday:   External Argument is Projected
Angelopoulos, Nikos, Chris Collins and Arhonto Terzi. To Appear. Greek and English Passives: the View from by-Phrases. Glossa.

Bruening, Benjamin. 2013. By Phrases in Passives and Nominals. Syntax 16, 1-41.

Chomsky, Noam. 1957. Syntactic Structures. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.

Collins, Chris. 2005. A Smuggling Approach to the Passive in English. Syntax 8.2, 81-120.

Legate, Julie. 2014. Voice and v: Lessons from Achenese. MIT Press, Cambridge.

1 comment:

  1. I think you could address two lacunae in one move by having a module on agreement (currently missing), and having as the readings Bejar's 2003 dissertation and Deal's NELS 45 proceedings paper:

    Béjar, Susana. 2003. Phi-syntax: a theory of agreement. Doctoral dissertation, Toronto, ON: University of Toronto.

    Deal, Amy Rose. 2015. Interaction and satisfaction in phi-agreement. In Proceedings of the 45th meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 45), eds. Thuy Bui & Deniz Özyıldız, vol. 1, Amherst, MA: GLSA, 179–192.

    Since this would have to come at the expense of something, schedule-wise, I would be remiss if I didn't suggest something to cut out to make room for this agreement module. Here too, I think one can strike a joint blow in favor of gender balance as well as useful scholarship, by eliminating the "Problems of Projection" readings and the attendant session :-)


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