Linguistics 566:
Introduction to Syntax for Computational Linguistics

A core course in UW's Professional Master's in Computational Linguistics

Autumn 2016

Course Info

Instructor Info




This course covers fundamental concepts in syntactic analysis such as part of speech types, constituent structure, the syntax-semantics interface, and phenomena such as complementation, raising, control, passive and long-distance dependencies. We will emphasize formally precise encoding of linguistic hypotheses and the design of grammars that can scale up to ever larger fragments of a language such as is required in practical applications. Through the course, we will progressively build up a consistent grammar for a fragment of English. Problem sets will introduce data and phenomena from other languages.

Course goals

By the end of this course students will be able to:


Note: To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in this class.


Note: All homework and exams should be turned online via Canvas as pdf files (only). Absolutely no .doc, .docx, .txt etc.

It is the student's responsibility to ensure that the files uploaded are the correct ones and are not garbled. This can be checked by downloading the files and opening them.

Late homework policy

I would like to be able to post the answer keys to homeworks immediately after you turn them in, so that you can compare your answers while the issues are still fresh in your mind. However, if there are students who haven't yet turned in their homework, I can't do that. Accordingly, I have adopted the following late-homework policy:

Homework formatting policy

All homework must be turned in electronically, via Canvas, as pdf files only. (If you are writing the trees/feature structures in your homework by hand, you'll need to scan them to pdf, or if no other option is available, take photos.) All prose answers should be typed. Each assignment should be turned in as as single pdf file. (The sole exception here is turning in partial assignments on time and the rest late for partial credit; under those circumstances, we expect separate pdfs for the part turned in on time and that turned in late. Note that you may not split a problem across your 'on time' and 'late' files.)

Be sure that your name appears in the pdf file.

In order to make it possible for us to grade your homework in a timely fashion, please keep all information for a given answer together and preferably in order, even if this leaves areas of white space in the pdf file. If necessary, use pdf software to rearrange pages so that the answers are ordered and contiguous. When we ask for feature structures on the nodes of trees, they should be shown as part of the tree (not separately, especially not on a different page). If the tree is too big to fit on one page, you may break it into meaningful parts (bigger constituents), so long as your answer makes it clear how they fit together. When the assignment asks for feature structures or constraints, these should be shown as feature structures and not as lists of independent statements.

Schedule of Topics and Assignments

Lectures will assume that students have completed the assigned reading first.
9/29 Introduction/organization
First attempts at a theory of grammar
Ch 1  
9/30     HW 0 due
10/4 CFG
Why NL aren't CF
Ch 2  
10/6 Feature structures
Headed Rules, Trees
Ch 3  
10/7     HW 1 due (Ch 2, 3)
10/11 Valence, Agreement Ch 4  
10/13 Semantics Ch 5  
10/14     HW 2 due (Ch 4,5)
10/18 How the Grammar Works (.ppt slides) Ch 6  
10/20 Catch up/review    
10/21     HW 3 due (Ch 6)
10/25 Binding Theory
Ch 7  
10/27 Lexical Types Ch 8:8.1-8.4  
10/28     HW 4 due (Ch 6,7,8)
11/1 Lexical Rules Ch 8:8.5-8.8  
11/3 Grammar and Processing Ch 9  
11/4     HW 5 due (Ch 8);
Midterm posted
11/8 Passive Ch 10  
11/10 Existentials, Extraposition, Idioms Ch 11  
11/11     Midterm due (Ch 1-10)
11/15 Raising, Control Ch 12  
11/17 Auxiliary verbs Ch 13:13.1-13.4  
11/18     HW 6 due (Ch 11,12)
11/22 Auxiliary verbs: NICE properties Ch 13:13.5-13.8  
11/24 No class: Thanksgiving Holiday    
11/29 Catch up, review    
12/1 Long-distance dependencies Ch 14  
12/2     HW 7 due (Ch 12,13)
12/6 Syntax and sociolinguistic variation
Course evals
Ch 15  
12/8 Construction-based grammar
Ch 16 Final exam posted
12/9     HW 8 due (Ch 14)
12/15 11:45pm     Final exam due
No late finals accepted.

Last modified: 9/23/16