LING 166/ANTH 142/CMSI 166

Syllabus: Fall 2010


Syntax is the study of the processes governing the formation of all and only the grammatical sentences of human languages. In this course, we will build a working grammar of English (a language we happen to share) from the ground up, using our native-speaker intuitions as a tool. Our goal will be to model the way in which the grammatical sentences of English are generated. We will also ask important questions about what this particular grammar might have to tell us about how human languages work more generally. You will be asked to collaborate extensively with your fellow students as you explore the systematic syntactic forms and processes of language.


Meeting Time/Place:

01:55 PM - 02:45 PM, MWF, PERKINS 107



Dr. Emily Manetta

509 Williams Hall

Office Hours:  Monday 11:30am-12:30pm; Tuesday 10am-11am

IM (for online office hrs): emilyatUVM (AOL IM)



How will this course work?

This course is very different from other courses you may have taken. We have no readings and no textbook. Instead, the course is homework-driven.


Each week you will receive a homework assignment that will look a lot like a puzzle. You will work on this assignment collaboratively in a small group of your classmates, then write up the results of your investigation on your own and submit your work.


Then we will begin a large group discussion in class concentrating on to how to solve the puzzle. Everyone will make suggestions and at the end of our conversation, we will arrive at a group solution. Then we will be ready to move on to the next puzzle!


We will keep track of our progress in the form of our class grammar. Each week you will see the model for generating grammatical sentences of English being built and refined, step by step.


How will I be assessed?


10 homework assignments (60%)

1 take-home midterm (20%)

1 take-home final (20%)


The homework assignments will be assigned an adjectival grade; the lowest one will be dropped. The take-home exams will be given a letter grade.



No Class Sept. 6 (Labor Day)

HW 1 due Wednesday Sept. 8

HW 2 due Monday Sept. 13

HW 3 due Monday Sept. 20

HW 4 due Monday Sept. 27

HW 5 due Monday Oct. 4

No Class Oct. 11

Take Home Midterm due Wednesday Oct 13

HW break

HW 6 due Monday Oct. 25

HW 7 due Monday Nov. 1

HW 8 due Monday Nov. 8

HW 9 due Monday Nov. 15

Thanksgiving Nov. 22-26

HW 10 due Monday Nov. 29

Take Home Final due Wednesday Dec 8 (last day of class)


NOTE: Late homework can receive no greater than half credit. No exceptions. Lowest homework grade is dropped.


What should my homework look like?

Homework should be written up by you alone, solely in your own words (with no help from the internet, or classmates). Although you should try solving the problems in a group, the way you write up that solution is crucial. Through this course you will learn to use a concise, clear, analytical writing style.


Your homework should be written up in prose, in complete, well-crafted sentences. You should use examples both from the homework itself and of your own creation to illustrate your claims. You should present a solution to the problem at hand, or write clearly about why none of your attempted solutions will work.


The homeworks will be graded for clear argumentation, effective writing, strong use of linguistic examples, and internal consistency. The “right” answer (when there even is one) is not nearly as valuable as your approach to the problem.


I have posted a sample homework response for you under the “Assignments” link in Blackboard so that you can see what an ideal assignment should look like.


What about readings?

There aren’t any. Really.


What about research?

I must ask you to try to refrain from doing any internet sleuthing to figure out the “answer” to your homework puzzles. In most cases, it won’t help you, and will only be confusing and make your homework sounds less like you. And as I said, I value the “right” answer far less than the well-written and well-explained one, so save your time for focusing on consistency in your own work.


I have to work in a group? How?

Yup, you sure do. These puzzles are, for the most part, designed to be too difficult to solve by yourself. Collaboration is a key part of the process, and you will be graded in part by how well you work with your group.


You and your group will need to find a way to meet in order to work on each assignment. You can meet in person (highly recommended) or use technology to “meet” in virtual space. Please do not come to tell me that your busy work/life/partying/skiing/commuting/lacrosse/greek/surfing/babysitting/swimming/

or curling schedule will not permit you to do group work. Surely one of the people in this classroom has one free hour in common with you per week. Make it work and you will most likely be pleased with the results, trust me.


Please put the full name of the folks you work with on the top of your HW.


Communication Policy:

I will contact you via your UVM email. Please be sure you have that email forwarded to an address you check regularly.


I will respond to your email within 24 hours during the week (usually much sooner!).


I use AOL IM, and will hold “office hours” online through my IM account in addition my weekly “real” office hours. If you can see me online, it is as though I am in my office, so don’t hesitate to contact me. My screenname is: emilyatUVM.


Course Policies

Plagiarism is defined as any time that you present another's work as your own, and it will not be tolerated in this course. Be sure to give credit or cite sources whenever necessary. If you have any questions about how to avoid plagiarism, please ask me, or consult UVM's Code of Academic Integrity.


Late work: Late homework can receive no greater than half credit. There are no exceptions.


Accommodations in the course can be provided with documentation of a learning disability or other disability (including a chronic health problem) through the ACCESS office. Please discuss any special requirements with the instructor.




Adjectival Grading

If you are unfamiliar with an adjectival grading, it may take a few homeworks to get used to. The system is loosely equivalent to letter grades, but not precisely. Your homework will be assessed and I will make detailed comments. At the end I will assign it an adjectival evaluation from this list: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor. Sometimes I will say that your assignment is, for instance, “good to very good work”. At the end of the semester I will average your two exams (midterm and final), as your best 9 homeworks, to determine your final grade (the lowest homework will be dropped).