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Course Plot Line

  1. The Present Scene: First 6 weeks. HPSG and LFG: some leading ideas, raisons d'etre, and analyses. How the frameworks work and how to read the notations.
  2. How we got there: History of "transformational syntax" from Syntactic Structures through Chomsky's "Conditions" papers. HPSG, LFG and GB as responses to the research problems and Zeitgeist of that period. The origins of much of today's intellectual landscape in syntax can be seen in the issues that emerged in this period.
  3. Coda: Something new (or so we're told) but in the spirit of such frameworks as HPSG and LFG: Amazon logo Culicover, Peter W., and Ray Jackendoff. Simpler Syntax. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780199271092.

An overarching issue in linguistic theory that we can trace throughout most of the discussion in this class is the question of sequential derivation vs. well-formedness conditions on representations as a central engine of explanations for phenomena.

Course Requirements

  1. A few problem sets on HPSG, LFG and a few topics later in the semester.
  2. HPSG/LFG and Generative Semantics presentations as indicated here, including a good handout. Participation in the final collective reading exercise.
  3. Perfect or near-perfect attendance and ongoing evidence that you've done all or most of the readings.
  4. No paper, no squib, no dissertation. When the last class ends, you're done. Imagine that!

Recommended Citation

For any use or distribution of these materials, please cite as follows:

David Pesetsky, course materials for 24.960 Syntactic Models, Spring 2006. MIT OpenCourseWare (, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Downloaded on [DD Month YYYY].


1 HPSG 1: How it works
2 HPSG 2: Infinitival complementation/a-bar dependencies
3 LFG: Basics
4 LFG 2: The over all system, modern developments
5 Student presentation festival: HPSG and LFG papers
6 Non-derivational principles and parameters/minimalist grammars
7 History of analyses of the English auxiliary verb system: Derivations to representations
8 Standard theory to generative semantics
9 Conditions
10 Student presentation festival: Generative semantics/interpretive semantics/conditions papers
11 The legacy of conditions: LFG, GPSG, and GB
12 Simpler syntax?