English 324 : The Structure of English

Syllabus for Summer 2007

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 7:30 - 10:00 a.m.
4208 Helen C White Hall



Professor Richard Young

7163 Helen C. White Hall
Office hours: Tuesdays, 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., or by appointment
E-mail: rfyoung at wisc dot edu
Phone: 263-2679

Class E-mail List

Use the class e-mail list as a public bulletin board for discussions about the class.  You may send e-mail messages to me and to all students registered for this course through this e-mail list.  Send your messages to english324-1-su07-ddd at lists dot wisc dot edu.

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Required Text

bullet van Gelderen, E. (2002). An introduction to the grammar of English: Syntactic arguments and socio-historical background. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins.  

The textbook is on reserve at the College Library Reserve Book Collection, 1st Floor West, Room 1191.

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Aims of the Course

In this course you will learn to describe how English sentences are constructed and you will develop the skills necessary to analyze sentence structure. In so doing you will use some of tools and methods of modern linguistics.

Describing how English sentences are constructed is not the same as telling people which sentences you consider examples of "good" or "bad" grammar.  Rather it is a way of looking inside native speakers' heads in order to find out what they know about the English language that allows them to communicate clearly.  What native speakers know about their language is called their "competence."  Native speakers' competence includes knowledge about how to pronounce words and sentences (phonology), how to break down a complex word like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" into its component parts (morphology), and how to relate words and sentences to their meanings (semantics).  In this course we will make only passing mention of phonology, morphology, or semantics; instead we will direct our attention to syntax -- the ways in which sentences are constructed from smaller units called phrases and how sentences are related to each other.

By the end of this course you should have acquired skill in analyzing simple and complex English sentences, and you should be able to explain and justify your analysis to other people.  You will also be able to draw tree diagrams and will impress your friends by your confident use of technical syntactic terms like adjunct, complementizer, ellipsis, lexical category, modal, and wh-movement.  If by the end of the course you have fallen in love with syntax, then you should nurture the relationship by taking more advanced courses such as English 329 (Introduction to the Syntax of English) and English 708 (Advanced English Syntax).

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Attendance and Readings. You are expected to attend class regularly and to complete weekly readings assigned from the textbooks.  I will circulate an attendance list at each class meeting.

Exams. Your knowledge and interpretation of the readings and lectures will be assessed by two exams. An in-class midsummer examination will be held on Monday, July 2, which will focus on the topics covered in the course until that point. All questions on the midsummer exam will be taken from the exercises in Chapters 1-6 of van Gelderen. The final exam will be held in class on Thursday, July 12 and will focus on topics covered in the course after the Midsummer exam.

Grammar Exercises. You are expected to write responses to exercises from van Gelderen and worksheets that I will hand out each lesson. I encourage you to do these activities in groups. Hard copies of your responses are due on the following class day. If you miss class on a day when an assignment is due, you may send your responses as an email attachment to the class grader, Anna Joh ajoh@wisc.edu, with a copy to me at rfyoung@wisc.eduLate assignments will not be accepted. One assignment will be a make-up. If you complete this assignment, you will have your grade on this assignment substituted for the lowest of the other 12 grades that you have received on the other grammar exercise assignments.  If you do not complete the make-up assignment, this will have no effect on your final grade.

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Assessment and Grading

I will award percentage grades for your responses to the Grammar Exercises and for the two exams. The meanings and equivalencies of the grades follow.

A+ (97% and above)
Outstanding performance
A (93-96%)
Demonstrates full understanding of all concepts; creatively applies theories and methods to new problems in the field.
AB (85-92%)
Intermediate grade.
B (77-84%)
Demonstrates understanding of all concepts; can correctly apply theories and methods to new problems in the field.
BC (69-76%)
Intermediate grade.
C (61-68%)
Demonstrates understanding of some but not all concepts; some errors in applying theory and methods to new problems in the field.
D (53-60%)
Demonstrates understanding of a limited number of concepts; many errors in applying theory and methods to new problems in the field.
F (52% and below)
Lack of understanding of concepts; not capable of applying theories and methods to new problems in the field.

The final grade for the course will take into account grades awarded on all assignments in the following proportions.

Percentage of Final Grade
Midsummer Exam
Final Exam
Grammar Exercises

Incompletes. The grade of "Incomplete" will only be used for a student who has carried the course with a passing grade until near the end of the four-week summer session and then, because of illness or other unusual and substantial cause beyond his/her control, is unable to complete the remaining assignments.

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Course Outline

Date Topic Readings in Textbook Assignments
June 18
Introduction: Our Knowledge of Language Chapter 1 Exercises C, D, E, and F on page 8 of van Gelderen due Tuesday, June 19
June 19
Lexical and Grammatical Categories Chapter 2 Exercises H, I, J, and K on pages 24-25 of van Gelderen due Wednesay, June 20
June 20
Phrases Chapter 3 Worksheet 1 due Thursday, June 21
June 21

Review Chapters 1-3

Video: The Human Language Series, Part 1 "Discovering the Human Language"

Worksheet 2 due Monday, June 25
June 25
Functions in the Sentence Chapter 4 Worksheet 3 due Tuesday, June 26
June 26
Functions of Prepositions and Particles Chapter 5 Worksheet 4 due Wednesday, June 27
June 27
The Structure of the Verb Group in the VP Chapter 6 Worksheet 5 due Thursday, June 28
June 28

Review Chapters 4-6

Video: The Human Language Series, Part 2 "Acquiring the Human Language"

July 2
In-class midsummer exam
July 3
Finite Clauses: Embedded and Coordinated Chapter 7 Worksheet 6 due Thursday, July 5

July 4

No class
July 5
Non-finite Clauses Chapter 8 Exercises D and E on pages 141-142 of van Gelderen due Monday, July 9
July 9
The Structure of the NP, AdjP, AdvP, and PP Chapter 9 Exercises E, F, and G on page 158 of van Gelderen due Tuesday, July 10
July 10
Clauses as Parts of NPs, AdjPs, AdvPs, and PPs Chapter 10 Make-up assignment due Wednesday, July 11
July 11

Special Sentences

Course Evaluation

Chapter 11 Worksheet 7 due Thursday, July 12
July 12
In-class final exam


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Reference Grammars

If you get a reputation as a grammar expert, people often ask you questions about English that take a lot of time to answer.  For example, I received an email from Taiwan asking,

Is the following sentence correct or not? "The behavior of a person during his lifetime, be it good or evil, is accumulated over time."  If yes, why should we use "be it good or evil" here?  What does "be it good or evil" originally come from?

For questions like this and for your own interest, it's useful to own a big fat reference grammar that contains answers to lots of questions about English.  Here are three that I have used and that I recommend.

bullet Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999). The grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher's course (2nd ed.). Stamford, CT: Heinle & Heinle.
bullet Huddleston, R., & Pullum, G. K. (2002). The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
bullet Quirk, R., Greenbaum, R., Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.


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This page last revised July 11, 2007