Linguistics 566:
Introduction to Syntax for Computational Linguistics

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

Autumn 2020

A note on time zones

All deadlines and meeting times for this class are in "Pacific Time". Note that we will be moving the clocks back one hour on Sunday November 1. For the first part of this quarter, "Pacific Time" is UTC-7. After November 1, "Pacific Time" will be UTC-8. If you are in a part of the world that doesn't change the clocks twice a year or if your change is at a different time, please be aware that the time of day for classes & deadlines in your timezone will change on Nov 1.

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:

Accesibility Policies

If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW's policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form available at

[Note from Emily: The above language is all language suggested by UW and in the immediately preceding paragraph in fact required by UW. I absolutely support the content of both and am struggling with how to contextualize them so they sound less cold. My goal is for this class to be accessible. I'm glad the university has policies that help facilitate that. If there is something you need that doesn't fall under these policies, I hope you will feel comfortable bringing that up with me as well.]

Course recordings

This course is scheduled to run synchronously at our scheduled class time via Zoom. These Zoom class sessions will be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter's audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public. The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:


These policies are similar to but distinct from the course policies for the 570s.

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.

My grading scale sets the 4.0 at 95%, 3.9 at 94% and so on. I reserve the right to adjust this at grading time to be *more* generous, should the grades for the quarter appear to warrant it, but it won't become stricter.

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/exams may not be turned in in pieces. Either it is all on time or it is all late, with the last time stamp being the one used for the above 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.

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.
10/1 Introduction/organization
First attempts at a theory of grammar
Ch 1  
10/2     HW 0 due
10/6 CFG
Why natural languages aren't context free
Ch 2  
10/8 Feature structures
Headed Rules, Trees
Ch 3  
10/9     HW 1 due (Ch 2, 3)
10/13 Valence, Agreement Ch 4  
10/15 Semantics Ch 5  
10/16     HW 2 due (Ch 4,5)
10/20 How the Grammar Works (ppt slides) Ch 6 (Appendix is optional)  
10/22 Catch up/review    
10/23     HW 3 due (Ch 6)
10/27 Binding Theory
Ch 7  
10/29 Lexical Types Ch 8:8.1-8.4  
10/30     HW 4 due (Ch 6,7,8)
11/3 Lexical Rules Ch 8:8.5-8.8  
11/5 Grammar and Processing Ch 9 (9.2.7 is optional)  
11/6     HW 5 due (Ch 8)
Midterm posted
11/10 Passive Ch 10  
11/12 Ch 11  
11/13     Midterm due (Ch 1-10)
11/17 Raising, Control Ch 12  
11/19 Auxiliary verbs Ch 13:13.1-13.4  
11/20     HW 6 due (Ch 11,12)
11/24 Auxiliary verbs: NICE properties Ch 13:13.5-13.8  
11/26 No class: Thanksgiving Holiday    
12/1 Long-distance dependencies Ch 14  
12/3 Catch up, review
Course eval
12/4     HW 7 due (Ch 12,13)
12/8 Syntax and sociolinguistic variation Ch 15  
12/10 Grammar engineering: The Grammar Matrix and AGGREGATION   Final exam posted
12/11     HW 8 due (Ch 14)
12/17 11:59pm Pacific Time     Final exam due
No late finals accepted.

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