English Syntax Course Outline

This is a sample English Syntax course outline for a classroom report or presentation. You may use this as a guide in gathering information and content. 

  1. Definitions. What is Syntax as a branch of linguistics? (Research at least three academic definitions of syntax and provide citations.)
  2. Purposes. What are particularly studied under syntax (goals in studying language syntax)? (Emphasize that the goal of syntacticians is to discover and understand syntactic rules common to all languages. You may use the illustration below.)
    • The sentence, ‘The big yellow dog ate the bone’ is a syntactically correct because it uses an arrangement that conforms to the rules of English syntax.
    • The string of words, ‘Big the ate bone dog yellow the,’ is not a sentence and violates syntactic rules.
  3. Syntax and Morphology (Morphology focuses on the formation of words out of morphemes. Syntax deals with formation of grammatical units out of words; e.g., phrases, clauses, and sentences)
  4. Syntactic Categories (Present in just a fast review. After all, everyone knows them well.)
    • Word Classes/Lexical Categories/Parts of Speech (noun, pronoun, verb, etc.)
      • Lexical Categories (content words such as nouns, adjectives, etc.)
      • Functional Categories (function words such as conjunctions, determiners, prepositions, etc.)
    • Phrasal Categories (noun phrase, verb phrase, prepositional phrase, etc.)
    • Clauses and Sentences (independent and dependent clauses, types of sentences according to structure, etc.)
  5. Basic Concepts About Syntactic Categories
    • Every word belongs to a lexical category.
    • Lexical categories (usually content words) form heads of phrases.
    • A phrase is built up around a single word (head), which extends it’s properties to the entire phrase.
    • Phrases are generated by rules of the grammar (phrase structure rules). In a tree, each subtree needs to correspond (ie “be licensed”) by a phrase structure rule in the grammar. (Crowgey, 2012)
  6. Basic Approaches to Syntax
    • Sentence Diagramming of Traditional Grammar (Obsolete)
    • Immediate Constituent Analysis (Linear Order of Words by Structuralists)
    • Phrase Structure Rules (Transformational Grammar by Noam Chomsky)
  7. Phrase Structure Rules
    • What are Phrase Structure Rules? Phrase Structure Rules illustrate mathematically our knowledge of how the basic units of a sentence are assembled. The theory of rules states that there is a limited number of rules that are carefully ordered
    • Phrase Structure Tree (Present the complicated tree of phrase structure rules.)
    • Phrase Structure Rules (Present the rules (combinations).)
      • NP (Noun Phrase)
      • VP (Verb Phase)
    • Structural Ambiguity