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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

We all string words together without thinking, but how does this process actually work? What makes the difference between a meaningful phrase and word salad? In this course we will explore the structure and meaning of sentences through the study of syntax and semantics. Students will gain tools to describe and analyse sentences in unexpected ways, drawing on a mixture of their own insights and data from a variety of languages to get to grips with the mechanisms that allow us to go beyond single-word utterances and communicate complex messages.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 3
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Elspeth Edelstein

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Course Aims

This course aims to allow students to develop their understanding of contemporary syntactic theory by engaging with primary literature and looking at real-world data. Students will gain familiarity with some of the classic questions of syntactic study, and undertake some of their own analysis.

Main Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have:

1. An understanding of the structure of sentences and how this contributes to their meaning

2. The basic technical vocabulary needed to describe grammatical phenomena.

3. The theoretical and conceptual tools to analyse and present syntactic and semantic data.

4. The ability to identify, describe, and analyse the syntax and semantics of sentences.

Course Content

While arranging words into phrases and sentences is something we do without thinking, this process is in fact governed by a complex set of rules which constitute an internal grammar available to speakers of any given language. The study of syntax takes as a starting point our surface knowledge of how words are combined in different languages, and attempts to systematically describe and explain the types of mental computation which might underlie our linguistic output. Likewise, semantics looks at how putting words together in specific ways gives us meaning.  This course examines how sentences are constructed from both a syntactic and semantic perspective, giving consideration to ways in which these two components of language interact.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

  • Three Homework Assignments of 1,500 Words (30% Each)
  • Seminar Assessment Mark (10%)

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment will be given through discussion of seminar topics and students' performance in seminars (on request). Formative assessment will also be provided in written comments on the homework exercises.


Formative assessment will be given in discussion of seminar performance and written work, with individual students being able to request individual feedback. Summative assessment will be provided through the written exercises, the SAM, and the presentation marks.

Course Learning Outcomes


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