Focus area Syntax


In the focus area Syntax, students are trained to read and critically discuss classic and current literature on  theoretical syntax and its  interfaces, as well as to elicit and analyse syntactic data. The goal for students is to develop strong skills in pattern recognition and  understanding, as well as to engage with formal theories covering different syntactic phenomena, such as movement, agreement, binding,  scope, word order, case assignment, clausal embedding, negation, information structure and various others. The extensive training prepares the students for conducting their own theoretical or empirical research in the area of syntax.

Additionally, the Syntax Colloquium provides a forum to learn about the syntactic research conducted at the department and to meet various  renowned syntacticians as well as promising younger scholars of the field.

Exemplary course announcements

Head movement

This course will tackle one of the most disputed syntactic processes: head movement. The idea of head movement is that a syntactic head  moves from its base position to a higher position in the syntactic structure, similar to what is standardly assumed for the dislocation of syntactic phrases, like mvoement of wh-phrases. The problem for heads, however, is that it is not always so easy to tell the difference between base and surface position. After an introduction, this seminar will review different views on whether or not head movement exists as a separate syntactic process and if so, how this process can be modelled theoretically. The discussion will be based on empirical phenomena usually associated with head movement, among them verb position, the Mirror Principle, incorporation, and clitic movement.


The seminar discusses syntactic theories of negation mainly from a synchronic and comparative perspective. The main topics to be  investigated encompass the syntactic structure of negation in English, German, and French, negative concord, double negation, negative  polarity, Neg-raising and Jesperson’s Cycle. Typologically, the seminar covers primarily Germanic and Romance languages, and their  varieties.

Syntactic effects of information structure

Most discussions of the syntactic effects of information structure are restricted to the phenomenon of fronting topics or foci to sentence  initial position. In this seminar, we will look at other syntactic effects information structural marking can have, especially on phi-feature agreement.