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A Program for Evolutionary Syntax: Syntactic Reconstruction and Syntactic Fossils

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A Program for Evolutionary Syntax: Syntactic Reconstruction and Syntactic Fossils

This course follows a simple idea, that syntax evolved gradually/incrementally (through well-defined stages), and that these stages are not only still evident in various modern constructions (“fossils”), but that they also provide a scaffolding for building more complex structures. By reconstructing a particular path along which syntax evolved (by unraveling the layers of functional structure postulated in Minimalism), this approach is able to explain some crucial properties of language design itself, as well as some major parameters of crosslinguistic variation, including the expression of transitivity and tense. Moreover, its postulates are at the right level of granularity to engage the postulates in e.g. neuroscience and genetics. The course draws on, and brings together: (i) Darwin’s theory of natural/sexual selection; (ii) some key postulates of Chomsky’s Minimalism and predecessors; (iii) Jackendoff’s (1999, 2002) idea of syntactic “fossils;” and (iv) internal reconstruction using a linguistic theory (Heine and Kuteva 2007). 

Course Status: Open

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Course Number:

301

Course Session:

Second two-week Session

Times:

Tuesday: 1:10 pm-3:00 pm
Friday: 1:10 pm-3:00 pm

Instructor(s):

Prerequisites:

A course in syntax.