Course information

Intermediate Syntax, Spring 2018

(CAS LX 422, GRS LX 722)

Meeting time MWF 1:25-2:15, CAS 312
Instructor Paul Hagstrom
Phone (617) 353-6220
Office 621 Commonwealth Ave., Rm. 105
Office Hours WF 2:30-3:30; R 1:30-2:30 (and by appointment)

Prerequisite: CAS LX250 (Introduction to Linguistics), or consent of instructor.

Course Description: In this course, we will develop the basic tools to model syntactic knowledge using the most widely-used modern framework (“minimalism”). Data drawn from a variety of languages will be used to evaluate hypotheses as the model is developed, the goal being to arrive at some understanding not only of how the syntax of human language “works” but also of why it works that way, what the dimensions are along which languages do and do not vary. We will review phenomena that have contributed substantially to the development of the theory and identify areas where significant understanding has been achieved as well as areas where more needs to be done. By the end of the course, we will have a precisely formalized model that has wide coverage and makes specific predictions that can be tested. The topics covered in the course represent the most fundamental areas of current syntactic research, such that students having completed the course will be in a good position to pursue further study of syntax through the professional academic literature or advanced courses.

Learning objectives

Students completing this course will:

  • Learn the modern framework for syntactic analysis in widespread use, enabling an understanding of the modern syntactic literature beyond those covered in this specific course
  • Gain an understanding of the ways in which the current theory improves over earlier approaches, and how it connects more broadly to theories of cognitive processing
  • Learn to work within a concretely specified syntactic framework to make and assess specific falsifiable predictions
  • Further develop analytical skills in analyzing data and evaluating theoretical accounts and approaches
  • Gain experience with the major areas of syntax where significant understanding has been achieved

Course Requirements

Homework. Weekly homework. Assignments some weeks will include reading course notes or watching an out-of-class video presentation covering a topic to be discussed. Some ungraded exercises will also be assigned from time to time, for discussion in class.

Midterm exam. There will be an in-class midterm around the middle of the semester.

Final exam. There will be a final exam, at a time to be announced.

Late assignments. Late assignments will not be accepted without prior arrangement.

Electronic communication

We live in an electronic age. You (unlike me) have always lived in an electronic age. You are expected to be reachable via your BU email address. The central communication center for the course is the course blog. Announcements, notes on readings, homework errata, and other information will be posted there on a regular basis, and things that are posted there will be assumed to have been communicated. Homework assignments can be sent (whenever feasible, and unless otherwise indicated) by email, or handed in on paper. It is your responsibility to ensure that electronically submitted material is in a readable format—if there is a question (for example, if you use a special font or an obscure word processor), send it early for verification. Unreadable submissions do not count as having been handed in.


There is a textbook for this course, but it is only “recommended”: David Adger, 2003, Core Syntax.

Grading Scheme

Homework (lowest dropped) 45%
Midterm exam 20%
Final exam 20%
Regular attendance, participation 15%

CAS/GRS Academic Conduct Code

It is essential that you read and adhere to the CAS Student Academic Conduct Code. Graduate students must also follow the policies of the GRS Academic Conduct code.