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Comparative Syntax


Admission requirements

BA Dutch language and culture (specialization Linguistics), BA Linguistics, or equivalent


All humans can learn any language as a native tongue. For this reason, the most central hypothesis in current syntactic research is that all languages share abstract syntactic principles. The first goal of comparative syntactic investigations is to discover whether syntactic principles are shared in this sense and what kind of principles are shared this way. The second goal is to understand how these principles allow for variation among languages and how syntactic variables are connected. This leads to a general theory of syntax for natural languages.
The first block of this course involves hands-on comparative syntactic research. Against the background of the existing literature we will compare the structure of nominal groups (DPs) in the native languages of the students in this course, and in languages that they are working on. The findings will be discussed every week in the first two hours. The third hour of every meeting will be used to provide students with more background knowledge or to dig deeper into the topic.
In block 2, every student will be working on a research paper, building on the results of the first block. In relation with this, we will discuss the most important comparative syntactic theories, such as Principles and Parameters, Minimalism, Parameter hierarchy. We will also address the different levels of syntactic variation, microvariation (between dialects), mesovariation (between typologically related languages) and macrovariation (between typologically different languages), and we will get to know the online databases that are available.

Course objectives

When you have completed this course you are able to:

  • Report and discuss orally and in writing on the most important questions, findings and theories in comparative syntactic research.

  • Use the most relevant methods and data collections for comparative research.

  • Carry out your own comparative syntactic research, including a presentation and writing of an essay.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

  • Literature study

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 uur = 280 hours.

  • Lectures: 13 x 2,5 = 32,5 hours

  • Preparation seminar meetings, including assignments: 13 x 6 = 78 hours

  • Literature: 60 hours

  • Presentation: 9,5 hours

  • Research project, paper and oral presentation: 100 hours

Assessment method

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

  • presentation on an article (10%)

  • active participation (10%)


A resit is only possible for the paper.

Inspection and feedback

The students will receive feedback on their paper during the final presentation and can get more personal feedback upon request.
If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Course program and further information exchange

  • Assignments

  • Bibliography

Reading list

Will be announced on Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.

The coordinator of studies is Else van Dijk