nl en

Comparative Syntax: Dutch


Admission requirements

BA Linguistics, BA Dutch language and culture, BA English language and culture, or equivalent.


Any human can acquire any human language as a mother tongue. A central hypothesis of modern linguistic research is therefore that all human languages have a number of abstract syntactic principles in common. The first goal of comparative syntactic research is to discover whether such common principles exist and if so, what their nature is. The second goal is to understand how these principles determine the range and limits of syntactic variation and how and why certain syntactic variables seem to correlate cross-linguistically. This should lead to a general theoretical model of natural language syntax and syntactic variation. This first part of the course is an introduction into comparative syntax. It will be followed by three parallel seminars each involving comparative syntactic issues in a different language (Chinese, Dutch, English). In the introductory part, we compare and discuss the most important theories, such as Principles and Parameters, Minimalism and Parameter Hierarchy, and the various levels of syntactic variation, i.e. microvariation (between dialects), mesovariation (between typologically related languages) and macrovariation (between typologically unrelated languages). We also study the relevant research methodologies and the online data collections that are currently available for research.
In the second part of the course, we will study the cross-linguistic syntax of adverbs, more specifically (i) adverbs that take their scope in the “wrong” clause and (ii) repair strategies for adverb types that cannot normally occur in the higher part of the adverb hierarchy.

Course objectives

  • The student knows and understands the major research questions, results and theories in the field of comparative syntax and is able to report on that.

  • The student knows the most relevant methods, data collections and tools in comparative syntax and is able to use these in comparative syntactic research.

  • The student is able to set up a small comparative syntactic research project, carry it out and report on it.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total: 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours.

  • Class meetings: 13 X 2 = 26 hours

  • Preparation of the meetings: 13 x 3 = 39 hours

  • Study literature: 65 hours

  • Oral presentation (1): 20 hours

  • Research project, paper and oral presentation (2): 130 hours

Assessment method

  • paper and oral presentation on own research (80%)

  • oral presentation on linguistic article (10%)

  • active participation (10%)

Resit: students who fail the course may the resit.


Blackboard will be used for course program, literature list and information exchange.

Reading list

List of literature will be made available on Blackboard.


Regular higher-year bachelor and master students are obliged to register ahead of time via uSis for lectures and workgroups.
For all other students applies that registration is through the co-ordinator of studies

Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

Students other than MA Linguistics need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.


Coördinator and teacher: Sjef Barbiers

For practical matters you may contact the secretarial office of the Opleiding Nederlandse Taal en Cultuur/Neerlandistiek. It is the Onderwijsadministratie P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 101A. Tel. 071 5272 2604.

Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.


The first part of the course (before the spring break) there will be one group. In the second part there will be three groups in which comparative syntax will be studied from the perspective of either Dutch, English or Chinese. The teachers of these groups will be Sjef Barbiers (Dutch), Anikó Lipták (English), Lisa Cheng & Rint Sybesma (Chinese), respectively.