Linguistics 614
Alternative Syntactic Theories
Spring 2008

Course goals

This course covers non-derivational theories of syntax that have focused on developing precisely formulated grammars whose empirical predictions can be directly tested. We will examine a number of different grammatical frameworks, including varieties of dependency grammar (DG), tree-adjoining grammar (TAG), combinatory categorial grammar (CCG), and lexical-funcational grammar (LFG). After a survey of each of these, we will delve more deeply into the framework of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), examining both theoretical and practical issues and gaining exposure to both the key foundational works as well as recent lines of investigation.

Given its focus on precise, testable theories, the course will be of particular interest to linguists who are concerned with developing detailed accounts of the syntactic structure of individual languages. It is also of special interest to computational linguists, as the frameworks have been developed with careful attention to ways in which analyses can be represented within computational models of language processing.

At the end of the course, students should be able to analyze linguistic data in a number of ways, read syntactic literature from a variety of viewpoints, and understand how these formalisms lend themselves well to computational needs. Participants will develop an HPSG grammar fragment for a language of their choice by the end of the semester.

No programming experience is assumed, but some syntax is required.

Instructor: Markus Dickinson
Office: Memorial Hall (MM) 317
Phone: (812) 856-2535
E-mail: md7 AT edu.indiana (flipped around)
Office hours:

M 11:00am-12:00pm
W 1:30-2:30pm
  or by appointment

Meeting time: TR, 4:00-5:15pm
Classroom: Sycamore (SY) 108
Course website:
Credits: 3
Course prerequisites: L543 or L545 or permission of instructor


For the first 5 weeks, we will use a variety of readings (available online) to provide background material for the lectures, and then we will use a book.

This is the current, tentative list of articles:

Book to purchase:

We'll select other readings later in the semester, depending on people's interests; see section on Presentations below.

Course requirements:

Academic Misconduct:

Academic misconduct is not allowed in this course. The Indiana University Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct ( defines academic misconduct as ``any activity that tends to undermine the academic integrity of the institution . . . Academic misconduct may involve human, hard-copy, or electronic resources . . . Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to . . . cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, interference, violation of course rules, and facilitating academic misconduct'' (II. G.1-6).

Students with Disabilities:

Students who need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me to arrange an appointment as soon as possible to discuss the course format, to anticipate needs, and to explore potential accommodations.

I rely on Disability Services for Students for assistance in verifying the need for accommodations and developing accommodation strategies. Students who have not previously contacted Disability Services are encouraged to do so (812-855-7578;

Tentative Schedule:

Month Date Day Topic Reading Assignments
Jan. 8 T Intro to class (.pdf, 2x3.pdf)    
  10 R Dependency Grammar (DG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) RH, JN  
  15 T DG    
  17 R Tree-Adjoining Grammar (TAG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) J&S, J&R  
  22 T TAG    
  24 R Combinatory Categorial Grammar (CCG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) S&B HW1 due
  29 T CCG    
  31 R Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) MD  
Feb. 5 T LFG    
  7 R LFG   HW2 due
  12 T Head-driven PSG (HPSG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) L&M  
  14 R HPSG overview    
  19 T HPSG overview P&S, ch. 1  
  21 R Topic #1: Agreement (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) P&S, ch. 2 HW3 due
  26 T Agreement    
  28 R Topic #2: Complement Structures (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) P&S, ch. 3  
Mar. 4 T Complement Structures P&S, ch. 9  
  6 R Complement Structures   HW4 due
  18 T No class (work on presentations)    
  20 R No class    
  25 T Topic #3: UDCs (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) P&S, ch. 4  
  27 R UDCs   HW5 due
Apr. 1 T Topic #4: Binding (.pdf, 2x3.pdf)    
  2 W Binding: 2:30-3:45pm, BH 139 P&S, ch. 6  
  3 R No class    
  8 T More on UDCs BMS-01  
  10 R Locality RL-00  
  15 T Semantics CFPS-05 HW6 due
  17 R Coordination IAS-03  
  22 T Constructional approaches SM-04  
  24 R Lexical rules DM-01 HW7 due
  29 T Projects (finals week) 2:45-4:45pm  
  TBA TBA Projects due    


This syllabus is subject to change. All important changes will be made in writing, with ample time for adjustment.