Focus Area Grammar Architecture


This module is contributed by the linguistics section of the University’s Institute of English and American Studies. The courses in the module compare different grammar architectures but typically center around topics in constraint-based grammar theories (e.g. HPSG, LFG, Construction Grammar), often with an emphasis on the syntax-semantics interface.

The unit’s research methodology is best characterized as theory-guided empirical research. Methods that are actively applied include corpus research, the simulation of theoretical proposals in computational grammars, and quantitative questionnaire studies.
A constraint-based approach to formal semantics called Lexical Resource Semantics (LRS) was developed by members of the unit. It shares many ideas with Montague Grammar but employs different means of composing the meaning of phrases from their constituents.

Additional information about the unit can be found on its website:

Exemplary course announcements

Constraint-Based Analysis (Lecture)         

This course combines an accelerated introduction to syntax and semantics and is intended to give the students all the prerequisites for taking Constraint-based Syntax 2 and Constraint-based Semantics 2 which are offered in the following semester.

The first half of the course introduces the analysis of English with the tools of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG). HPSG is strongly surface-oriented, which means that it avoids postulating invisible syntactic and morphological objects as much as possible. For the same reason, it disallows derivations where syntactic or morphological units are deformed by structure-changing operations such as movement or deletion. Instead, HPSG views grammars as systems of constraints whose interactions yield the linguistically significant generalizations that we find in the world’s languages.

The second half of the course provides a systematic introduction to the analysis of meaning in natural language. We will be looking into how meaning is composed and what formal tools there are to describe (the composition of) meaning. Among those tools are sets and functions as well as the lambda notation. Our focus will be on truth-conditional aspects of meaning and the compositional interpretation of English phrases and sentences.

none, but some knowledge of basic syntax, morphology, and semantics is desirable.

Constraint-Based Semantics 2: Negation and Modality     

In the semantics introduction we showed how to arrive at an interpretation for simple English sentences. In this follow-up course the participants will extend their analytic skills to more advanced phenomena. We will focus on semantic categories associated with the English auxiliary system, such as negation (didn’t), modality (can, must). We will study their semantic and pragmatic properties and see how these interact with their syntax.

The course will use Lexical Resource Semantics, a framework of a constraint-based syntax-semantics interface. Participants are expected to either have some familiarity with this framework or to be willing to acquire its basics during the first two weeks of the semester.

The course requires familiarity with the basics of formal semantics, as acquired in the course “Semantics 1” or in the lecture “Constraint-based Analysis.”