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SEL3426 : Comparative Syntax: English in a cross-linguistic context

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Michelle Sheehan
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module gives students an introduction to comparative syntax, contrasting English with other languages. The content will be research-driven, based around recent publications on a specific topic in syntax and the focus will be on analysing data and constructing theory in this domain. The topic for 2023/4 will be questions.

Outline Of Syllabus

1. The basics: wh-movement, head movement and prosody
2. Question particles and pied piping (English vs. Tlingit)
3. Superiority and multiple wh-movement (English vs. German vs. Russian)
4. Successive cyclicity
5. Subject object asymmetries
6. Islands
7. Other extraction restrictions
8. Wh-in-situ and resumptive pronouns
9. Questions in signed languages
10 Signed languages and the theory of questions
11. Summary and assessment planning

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion157:0057:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities1110:00110:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL8689Minimalist Syntax: Data and Theory Building
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students will read core readings for discussion in lectures and complete analytical tasks for discussion in seminars each week. This will guide them to engage critically with published research and to test out theories empirically with controlled datasets provided first by the lecturer. As the module progresses, students will be encouraged to collect their own data and read more widely in relation to their chosen essay topic, guided by the lecturer.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research proposal2M151000 words: Students will submit a research proposal outlining their proposed final research project
Essay2A85Students will write a 3000 word essay on a topic of their choice related to module content, with guidance from the module leader.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students will write an essay focusing on one of the topics covered in the module or something related to these topics. This will involve additional reading and may involve data collection and analysis in order to test one or more of the theoretical proposals discussed on the course. Students will first submit a plan for their projects to receive feedback on this from the lecturer and from peers. The research proposal and essay will be assessed separately and students will not be obliged to follow their original plan if they decide to change track, following feedback.

Reading Lists