Formal syntactic theory



The aims of the module are:

  • To extend student learning in formal generative syntactic theory by completing student knowledge in core aspects of current syntactic thinking
  • To extend students' ability to develop and present theoretical arguments succinctly and cogently in both oral and written format

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • evaluate the theoretical importance of sets of syntactic data that you are presented with 
  • demonstrate familiarity with current proposals in generative syntactic theory by analysing such data within the theoretical framework to which you have been exposed 
  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of theoretical proposals regarding syntactic theory, particularly as it is applied to English syntax
  • demonstrate an increasing ability to present your own theoretical arguments in favour of or against particular theoretical proposals

This module will be capped at 35.



Students must have successfully completed:

  • L16I Intermediate Syntax (LAN00016I)



Contact hours

16 hours of lectures and 8 hours of practical/seminar work.

Teaching programme

Topics to be covered include the structure of DPs, movement operations, and locality conditions. The analyses of these phenomena will develop your skills in understanding syntactic argumentation. You will attend lectures and practicals in a ratio of 2:1. In addition, you will be expected to prepare formative work and do background reading outside class time. You will be asked to present some of the answers to the formative exercises to other members of the class.

Teaching materials


Assessment and feedback

Assessment and feedback

Formative work and feedback

  • Frequent exercises with feedback provided throughout the term.

Summative assessment and feedback 

  • Coursework
    • Due: Week 9 of Autumn term
    • Weight: 50%
  • 90-minute closed examination
    • Spring Term, Week 1
    • Weight: 50%

Results will be provided within four term weeks or six calendar weeks of submission (whichever is shorter). Exam scripts subsequently available to view (under supervision).


Transferable skills developed in this module

All modules provide an opportunity to work on general oral/written communication skills (in class and in assessments) and general self management (organising your studies), alongside the specific skills in language or linguistics that the module teaches.

In addition, this module will allow you to develop skills in problem solving. You will tackle syntactic problems and understand how theoretical assumptions are used to solve those problems. You will also develop data analysis skills by learning how and why sorting out data helps you understand the underlying mechanisms hidden behind the raw data.

Follow this link to hear how past students use transferable skills from their degree in their current jobs.

About this module

  • Module name
    Formal syntactic theory
  • Course code
    L43H (LAN00043H)
  • Teachers 
    George Tsoulas
  • Term(s) taught
  • Credits