A tree casts a unique shadow on structures near Clemens Hall. 

Syntax is the study of sentence structure, and of how sentence structure interacts with other dimensions of linguistic information, such as phonology, morphology, semantics, and pragmatics. The Department of Linguistics focuses on syntax from both experimental and computational perspectives, and within a wide range of frameworks, specifically Basic Linguistic Theory, Construction Grammar, Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar, and Role and Reference Grammar.

Core Researchers

Rui P. Chaves, PhD's research focuses on formal and experimental studies about the Syntax and Semantics interface (with particular emphasis on coordinate structures, unbounded dependencies, ellipsis, and linearization theory), with particular interest in the interaction between performance and competence grammar. He has specialized in the Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar framework, worked in dynamic and underspecified semantic formalisms, and implemented various research grammar prototypes.

Matthew S. Dryer, PhD's theoretical orientation is that of basic linguistic theory. Since 1983, he has been working on a project establishing a large cross-linguistic database on word order and related typological characteristics, and has produced a number of publications in this area. His language documentation interests include Kutenai and Papuan languages.

Since 2001, he has been engaged in joint field research with Lea Brown on two languages of Papua New Guinea, Walman (in the Torricelli family) and Poko-Rawo (in the Sko family). Publications include “Primary Objects, Secondary Objects, and Antidative” (Language, 1986), “The Greenbergian Word Order Correlations” (Language, 1992), “The Discourse Function of the Kutenai Inverse” (Voice and Inversion, 1994), “Focus, Pragmatic Presupposition, and Activated Propositions” (Journal of Pragmatics, 1996), and “On the 6-way Word Order Typology” (Studies in Language, 1997). He is one of four co-editors of the World Atlas of Language Structures, a typological atlas, along with Martin Haspelmath, David Gil, and Bernard Comrie. The atlas was published by Oxford University Press in August 2005.

Jeff Good, PhD does research on various topics in morphosyntax, with a particular interest in linear relations. His theoretical focus is modeling the distinct ways linear relations manifest themselves in morphological as opposed to syntactic domains, and his descriptive focus lies with Benue-Congo languages.

Jean-Pierre Koenig, PhD’s research has focused on the interface between Syntax and Semantics (in particular argument structure), the structure of the lexicon, and the interface between syntax and aspect within the framework of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar.

Robert D. Van Valin Jr., PhD’s work has been focused on the development of Role and Reference Grammar, a theory of syntax which emphasized the interaction of semantics and information structure in grammatical systems. It has a strong typological component, as much of the work done in the theory has been done on non-Indo-European languages. The most recent summary of this work is in Exploring the Syntax-Semantics Interface (Cambridge UP, 2005).