Linguistics 614
Alternative Syntactic Theories
Spring 2010

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 briefly cover a number of different grammatical frameworks, including varieties of dependency grammar (DG), tree-adjoining grammar (TAG), lexical-funcational grammar (LFG), and Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG). After a survey of each of these, we will delve more deeply into the framework of combinatory categorial grammar (CCG)

The CCG portion of the course will be treated essentially like a seminar. We will read recent papers which examine both theoretical and computational aspects of CCG. This will include, on the one hand, topics such as the structure of the lexicon and the relation of syntax to semantics and information structure, and, on the other hand, methods for CCG supertagging, wide-coverage CCG parsing, and CCG corpora. The exact material will depend to some extent upon the interests of the participants.

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, especially CCG, lend themselves well to computational needs.

Some details

Meeting time: MW, 9:30-10:45am
Classroom: Ballantine Hall (BH) 141
Course website:
Credits: 3
Course prerequisites: L543 or L545 or permission of instructor

Instructor: Markus Dickinson
Office: Memorial Hall (MM) 317)
Phone: (812) 856-2535
E-mail: (remove neighboring state)
Office hours: (at least for the first week)

T 12:00-1:00pm
F 11:00am-12:00pm
  or by appointment


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 switch to other articles, as determined by interest.

This is the current, tentative list of articles:

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;


Month Date Topic Reading Assignments
Jan. 11 Intro to class (.pdf, 2x3.pdf)    
  13 Basic syntactic constructions (.pdf, 2x3.pdf)    
  18 NO CLASS, MLK DAY    
  20 Dependency Grammar (DG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) RH, JN  
  25 Tree-Adjoining Grammar (TAG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) J&S  
27 TAG    
Feb. 1 Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) MD HW1 due
  3 LFG    
  8 Head-driven PSG (HPSG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf) LM HW2 due
10 HPSG   Sign-up for CCG topics
  15 Combinatory Categorial Grammar (CCG) (.pdf, 2x3.pdf)   HW3 due
  17 CCG overview S&B  
  22 CCG background: lambda abstraction (see these slides)   HW4 due
    (Slides from Jeff Pelletier's course on semantics at SFU)    
  24 CCG    
Mar. 1 CCG catch-up   HW5 due
  3 Using CCG computational tools    
  8 CCG: cross-linguistic issues (Rosie) reading  
  10 CCG: scrambling (Melissa) reading  
  12 (F) Mike White talk   3:45pm, BH 103
  22 No class (I'm gone)    
  24 No class (I'm gone)    
  29 CCG: gapping (Wil) + word order (Dima) readings: 1, 2  
  31 CCG: word order (Dima) + Lexicon (Scott) reading  
Apr. 5 CCG: multi-modal CCG (Dustin) reading  
  7 CCG: semantics (Kevin) reading  
  12 CCG: information structure (Chris, Olga) reading  
  14 CCG: information structure (Chris, Olga) + performance (Beth) readings: 1, 2 (see oncourse)  
  19 CCG: performance (Beth) + corpora (Marwa, Shahab) reading  
  21 CCG: corpora (Marwa, Shahab) + tagging (Amber) from last time  
  26 CCG: tagging (Amber) + parsing (Ross, Eric) readings: 1 (see oncourse), 2  
  28 CCG: parsing (Ross, Eric) reading  
May 5 (W) CCG: NLP applications (Alex, Tony) readings: 1, 2 8-10am
  5 (W) Projects due, 5pm    


As you'll note, I'm gone the week after spring break. I would like to schedule 2 make-up classes, to make sure we have enough time to cover all items of interest.

One make-up ``class'' will be the IULC talk by Michael White from Ohio State (, who will be presenting on his CCG-related research on Friday, March 12. Attendance at this talk is mandatory.


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