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Universals and Variation in Syntactic Systems - LAN00101M

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. George Tsoulas
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module pushes forward and integrates your knowledge of syntax and semantics by examining the way semantics and syntax interact and constrain one another’s operations.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To familiarise you with the current state of minimalist theory concerning Universal Grammar and grammatical variation.

  • To address issues regarding the architecture of the grammar from the point of view of issues relating to parametric variation..

  • To consider a range of phenomena in terms of variation in syntactic processes and properties

  • To develop your ability to deal with higher complexity data and issues and develop a theoretically informed understanding of the questions and challenges that they raise.

  • To develop specific research and study skills linked to abstract theoretical work (i.e. discover the connectedness of seemingly disparate ideas)

  • To give you an opportunity to experience work at the forefront of current understanding

  • To provide you with the relevant tools for advanced analysis of crosslinguistic data

Module learning outcomes

  • Select and apply appropriate syntactic and semantic diagnostics to a wide range of constructions

  • Synthesise different aspects of your knowledge about structural properties and the way they vary

  • Identify key patterns in data sets and express their distribution in terms of key syntactic concepts of Universal Grammar, PArameter setting and parametric hierarchies.

  • Formulate and explicitly state intricate generalisations about relevant phenomena.

  • Systematically apply the tools you’ve learnt to understand the nature of derivations.

By the end of the module, you should be able to do the following:

  • Show familiarity with current proposals in generative syntax

  • Fit your descriptive knowledge within a larger theoretical framework

  • Formulate theoretical arguments and follow them through.

  • Show significant knowledge of the interplay between Universality and variation in a restricted framework

Module content

Week Topic
1 The Minimalist View of Syntax and Language Design
2 Universal Grammar
3 Parameters
4 Word Order
5 Null Subjects
6 Incorporation
7 Verb Movement
8 Case and Alignment Nom-Acc
9 Case and Alignment ERG - ABS
10 Wh Movement
11 Conclusions


Task Length % of module mark
Universals and Variation in Syntactic Systems essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Universals and Variation in Syntactic Systems Essay reassessment
N/A 100

Module feedback

One-to-one feedback after presentation/discussion.

For submitted assessments, you will receive individual written feedback within 25 working days of your submission.

Indicative reading

Roberts, I. (2019). Parameter hierarchies and universal grammar. Oxford University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.