Morpho-Syntax (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Chiara Melloni
Chiara Melloni
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 1B dal Nov 19, 2018 al Jan 12, 2019.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide an introduction to the morpho-syntax of natural languages, with particular reference to the conceptualization and the modeling tools of the Minimalist framework and, more generally, within the Principles and Parameters model of the generative grammar framework. Besides a formal approach, the contents are approached from the perspective of first language acquisition, in terms of both typical and atypical language development (specific language disorders and developmental dyslexia). The course therefore proposes to set some fundamental epistemological bases also for the Language Learning module.

At the end of the course, the student:

1. knows the basic concepts in the morpho-syntax of natural languages and is able to analyze the combinatorial and movement rules at the basis of the derivation of syntactic structures;
2. knows how to apply the acquired knowledge for the purposes of:
• recognizing, describing and analyzing some syntactic phenomena autonomously, with particular reference to the English and Italian languages;
• representing the structure of phrases and sentences with tree diagrams;
• analyzing phenomena of head and phrasal movement.
- is able to use and evaluate independently the technical literature of the scientific field;
- is able to re-elaborate the acquired theoretical knowledge and to apply it, even autonomously and/or critically, to the domains of typical and atypical language development and, more generally, in other domains of the present Master's Degree Course and in a possible continuation of the post-graduate studies.

Course attendance does not include prerequisites.

The course is entirely delivered in ENGLISH.


This course allows you to acquire the theoretical assumptions and analytical tools to address the study of minimalist syntax, focusing on data and grammatical structures of English and Italian. Starting from the notions of linguistic categories and constituents, we will study how to represent the syntactic structure of phrases and sentences, focusing on the concept of movement. In addition, a perspective of analysis focused on the development of syntax will be offered, also considering grammar development in the case of language disorders (atypical development), and illustrating the results of the most recent experimental psycholinguistic research.
In the last week of lessons (7-11 January 2019), prof. Paolo Acquaviva, University College Dublin, will hold a 6-hour module on aspects of derivational morphology.

Theoretical concepts:
- Acquisition of Language and Syntax: Universal Grammar and parametric variation
- Preliminary concepts: categories and constituency tests
- The structure of the constituents and the X-bar theory
- The structure of sentences: TP and CP
- Null constituents: null subjects, null determinants, null auxiliary, null complementary
- Movement:
- head to head
- Wh movement
- a-movement

Typical and atypical development:
- verbal inflection
- sentence structure
- passive and relative clauses

Lectures and exercises.


Radford, A (2004). Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 1 to 7.
Belletti, A. & Guasti, M.T. (2015). The acquisition of Italian: Morphosyntax and its interfaces in different modes of acquisition. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins. Chapters

Suggested reading:
Adger, D. (2003). Core Syntax. Oxford University Press: Oxford. Chapters 1 to 4.

Attending and non-attending students are invited to read the detailed program and download the materials published on the e-learning page of the course.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Andrew Radford Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the structure of English. CUP 2004
Adriana Belletti e Maria Teresa Guasti The acquisition of Italian Morphosyntax. John Benjamins 2015

Assessment methods and criteria

Written test: the exam consists of a written test lasting 1,5 hours and will include open and multiple-choice questions on the theoretical part, as well as exercises in which you will be asked to represent the syntactic structure of some sentences, on the model discussed during the course.

The exam will verify the theoretical and practical skills acquired during the course, as well as your ability to represent the structure of sentences with tree diagrams. The questions will therefore cover all the topics of the program, both those treated in the classroom during the lessons and which will be made available on the e-learning platform, and those you prepared independently on the texts indicated.

Attending and non attending students will be administered the same exam.

The tests will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
- substantial correctness of the answers and exhaustiveness of the contents;
- expressive clarity, argumentative capacity and knowledge of the specific language of the subject;
- correctness and precision in carrying out the exercises.

The final evaluation will be expressed in thirtieths.