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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

LING5410M Foundations of Syntax

15 creditsClass Size: 36

Module manager: Dr Valentina Brunetto

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module provides students with a strong grounding in the study of syntax. Syntax is the component of grammar that determines how words combine into larger units, how parts of sentences relate to each other, and how this impacts on meaning. Approaching human language from a descriptive rather than a prescriptive point of view, the study of syntax increases students’ understanding of linguistic systems (in general) and of the languages they speak (in particular). This can provide language teaching professionals with a better understanding of what their students are attempting to learn. Although English is the common medium for teaching and discussion in this module, the module focuses as much attention as possible on grammatical features of other languages of the world, exploring differences and universal constants.


This module aims to provide students with a strong grounding in the study of syntax. This includes introducing students to how language is structured and to core aspects of scientific reasoning, as well as training students to carry out syntactic analyses of data from English and other languages.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should have:
1. an understanding of how language is structured (how words combine into larger units and how this impacts on meaning),
2. an ability to carry out syntactic analysis of English and other languages
3. an understanding of scientific reasoning (how theories are built and revised)


Topics covered in this module typically include constituency (how words combine into larger units), complements and adjuncts (ways in which constituents can combine with other units), argument structure (what predicates need to combine with), complex sentences (sentences including more than one clause), and questions (yes/no questions and content questions). The seminars focus on drawing trees (to represent graphically the structure of sentences) and formulating phrase structure rules.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours50.00
Private study hours85.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Students are expected to devote 135 hours of independent study time to this module, with the following suggested breakdown:
- core reading for the lectures: (10x3=) 30 hours
- follow-up reading and exercises related to lecture content: (10x2=) 20 hours
- preparation for seminars using the VLE: (5x4=) 20 hours
- self-study using the VLE: (10x3=) 30 hours
- preparation of the assignment: 15 hours
- preparation for the open book exam: 20 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The lectures incorporate practical activities which provide students with regular opportunities for asking questions and gaining formative feedback. The fortnightly seminars are a forum for monitoring students’ syntactic analysis skills, as well as their use of the self-study materials developed for the module, and for providing formative feedback where relevant. Students are given feedback on the assessed analysis task before the exam.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
AssignmentData set(s) with questions40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

This exam may be replaced by an alternative assessment administered online

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 02/11/2023


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