Tag Archives: Minimalism
Introduction to Minimalist Syntax

Norbert Hornstein – University of Maryland
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
2306 Mason Hall

See Course Description

This course will be built around novel analytic techniques made available with the adoption of minimalist assumptions.  As novelty is best appreciated against the background of what is conventional, there will be some retrospective glances, with an eye to understanding both what is new and what is continuous with earlier approaches.  To ground the discussion empirically, we will concentrate on the following “hot” areas:

  • Phrase Structure
  • Control and Binding
  • Parasitic Gaps
  • Sidewards Movement
  • Multiple Interrogation and Superiority
  • Multiple Spell Out , Cyclicity, Islands and Ellipsis
  • Existential Constructions

The main idea will be to introduce the central concepts of Minimalism in the context of analyses of these kinds of phenomena.  The minimalist concepts we will discuss include:

    • Bare phrase structure, labels
    • Merge, Internal and External
    • Chain Uniformity
    • Economy, Merge-over Move
    • Relativized Minimality, minimal-domains, Minimal Link Condition
    •  Extension, Virus Theory
    • Bare Output Conditions
    • Levels, Interfaces
    • Last Resort and Greed
    • Linearization
    • Features, Interpretability, Valuation
    • Agree, Probes, Goals
    • Phases
    • Copy Theory and Reconstruction

Topic by Topic:

How To Build A Simple Sentence: For the beginning of classes read Chapter 3 of The Minimalist Program, and Bare Phrase Structure

    1. Merge, External/Internal
    2. Label
    3. Case, minimality and minimal domains, S-structure
    4. Theta relations
    5. D-structure
    6. X’-theory, Bare Phrase structure, Generalized Transformations
    7. Extension

 For the following topics readings will be added as we move along.

  1. How To build a Complex sentence: Raising, Passive, Wh-movement
    1. Internal Merge
    2. Greed, various kinds
    3. Minimality
    4. Cyclicity
    5. Probes and Goals
    6. Extension and Virus Theory
  1. Control and Raising
    1. Theta roles
    2. D-structure
    3. Features, Greed, EPP
    4. Null case
    5. Bare Phrase structure and the status of PRO
  1. Parasitic Gaps and Adjunct Control
    1. Sidewards Movement
    2. Extension and Virus theory
    3. Probes/Goals and Greed
    4. CED effects
  1. Binding and Reconstruction
    1. S-structure,
    2. Copies, LF and PF
    3. Principles A, B, C
    4. Binding and movement
    5. Locality and spell out/phases
  1. Multiple Interrogation
    1. Superiority
    2. Minimality
    3. Attract vs Move
    4. Tucking In
    5. Virus Theory and Extension
  1. Existential Constructions
    1. Agree and Move
    2. Binding and features
    3. Locality
    4. Merge over Move
    5. Numerations
    6. Phases

By this time we will hopefully have passed the semester equator (we are planning about ten weeks for those core topics). At this point we want to open the discussion to Phase Theory. Since this is a more current topic, we expect the course to evolve towards a more participatory, seminar-like, environment, and we even plan to invite more senior graduate students to join in on the show. Be prepared to engage on a frank discussion of the topic.


The usual for this sort of class. We will have regular homeworks that we may even exchange among participants. We allow – in fact encourage – collective work on homeworks, so long as eventually every participant writes their own contribution and participation is explicitly acknowledged. We will expect some conference-like abstract by the middle of the semester with a concrete suggestion for a research topic. The requirements will end with a short squib, based on the abstract, which can be the basis for a future paper, hopefully to be submitted to a conference.

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