John Frederick Bailyn: Syntactic Structures and its legacy

This course is an introduction to the foundational findings and concepts of the generative approach to the syntax of natural languages, based on Noam Chomsky’s thin but seminal 1957 book Syntactic Structures (SS). We will look at Chomsky’s original arguments in SS for Phrase Structure Rules and Transformations, and how the “Standard Theory” system worked.  We will take close note of what aspects of SS remain central to generative grammar and which have been superseded. The discussion will focus in particular on the English auxiliary system, and the rules of Affix Hopping and do-support but we will also pepper the discussion with the complications of extending the system to cover other languages, in particular Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian.

This is not intended to be a fully Introductory syntax course, and some background in generative syntax would be helpful. However, it is also not an advanced syntax course, in that it will not focus on current syntactic research per se except, indirectly through discussion of the legacy of Syntactic Structures. Exercises will be provided for those working with a system of Phrase Structure Rules and Transformation for the first time.

  • Day 1: Syntactic Trees and how to generate them with Phrase Structure grammars      (covers: The Independence of Grammar (ch 2) An Elementary Linguistic Theory (ch 3) Phrase Structure (ch 4) 
  • Day 2: (a) PS Grammars, continued.  (b) Introducing Transformations       (covers: Limitations of Phrase Structure Description (ch 5); Some Transformations in English (ch 7))
  • Day 3.  The English Aux system; affix hopping and do-support      (covers: Limitations of Phrase Structure Description (ch 5); Some Transformations in English (ch 7))
  • Day 4.  Transformations and their descendants
  • Day 5: The Legacy of Syntactic Structures