Module Catalogue 2024/25

SEL2089 : Syntactic Theory

SEL2089 : Syntactic Theory

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Geoffrey Poole
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Code Title
SEL1027Introduction to the Structure of Language 1: Phonetics, Phonology & Morphology
Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



- Acquaint the student with concepts and explanatory mechanisms in contemporary syntactic theory.
- Explore the application of these concepts to the syntax of present-day languages with a particular focus on English, covering major syntactic phenomena, categories, rules and principles.
- Develop critical thinking skills through the examination of different explanatory approaches to problems in the syntax of mainly, but not exclusively, present-day English.

Outline Of Syllabus

Following on from SEL1027, this module provides a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of the syntax of natural language with modern English as the main object of study. It is a required course for students on Linguistics degrees, but is open to any student who has taken SEL1027. Topics to be addressed include phrase structure (X’-Theory), argument structure (theta-roles), Case, agreement,noun phrase structure, binding, various kinds of movement, ellipsis, locality, Logical Form, architecture of grammar, syntactic variation. Not necessarily all of these are covered every year.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1. Understanding of the fundamental properties of the syntax of natural language.
2. Familiarity with the technical vocabulary of research on syntax within contemporary, formal syntactic theory.
3. Ability to evaluate the empirical content and theoretical implications of hypotheses regarding syntactic analysis.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. Ability to analyse formally a wide variety of expressions in English.
2. Ability to understand formal descriptions and analyses of expressions in other languages than English.
3. Ability to integrate empirical evidence with theoretical hypotheses in linguistic argumentation
4. Constructive argumentation and critical evaluation of results in syntactic theory
5. Coping with counterevidence and complexity

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion190:0090:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture211:0021:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading177:0077:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00essay consultation
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL8026Generative Syntax
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the knowledge and skill outcomes. Seminars consolidate the skill outcomes through conceptual questions distributed for discussion and problem sets to be discussed in seminar. Private study is an important part of the programme, requiring close reading of the material both in advance of lectures and as a follow-up to them.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A251000-word précis
Written exercise1A7524 hour take home project. 3000 words. Any notes, books, materials, internet etc. may be used
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Portfolio1MPortfolio of semi-weekly problem sets (pre- and post-seminar)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Following on specifically from the lectures, seminars and 36 hours of guided independent study, the take-home written exercise tests the students understanding and analytic skills in syntactic theory by asking them to apply their knowledge of the theory to previously unseen problems. The end of module essay tests the students' understanding of syntactic theory more holistically through a précis of a short journal article in syntactic theory from a selection provided by the module leader.

The portfolio of problem sets gives the students a sense of their progress across the semester with respect to the necessary basic analytic skills in syntactic theory which will be relevant for the final exam and essay.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2024 academic year.

In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described.

Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2025/26 entry will be published here in early-April 2025. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.