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Natural Language Syntax for Non-Linguists

Course COMS 6998, Spring 2005


Martin Jansche and Owen Rambow


Wednesdays    11 :00AM-12:50PM  in NEW LOCATION 545 Seeley W. Mudd Building NEW LOCATION

The course starts January 19, 2005.


COMS E6998-1 (28753)    Topics In Computer Science, I (Adv Tpcs/naturl Lang Proc)    3.0    0    O. Rambow  

NEW Course webpage NEW


The course is designed to require no specific knowledge, but it does require ease with the notion of language as an object of study.  Computer Scientists are encouraged to have taken the intro NLP course, but this is not expected of students in other disciplines (see Course Requirements).  The instructors have no objection to undergraduates who have taken the Intro NLP course.


One to three short presentations in class; final project.  The final project can be a paper and/or an implementation.  It can focus on linguistic, formal, and/or computational issues.  The student will define the project in close cooperation with the instructors.

Auditors welcome; please check with the instructors.


Course: Natural Language Syntax for Non-Linguists

In this course, we will investigate the structure of natural language utterances, i.e., their syntax. Syntax provides a link between the sequence of words in a sentence and representations of its meaning. For example, "Pat convinced Robin to shave", "Pat promised Robin to shave", and "Pat left Robin to shave" differ in much more than just the meaning of the second word in each of these sentences.

This course starts with a concise descriptive introduction to some of the core linguistic phenomena of English. We also examine some examples from other languages from around the world. The discussion is complemented with examples from syntactically annotated corpora such as the Penn Treebank.

In the second part of the course, we present several frameworks which have been proposed for the representation of syntactic structures. These include Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG), and Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG). The presentations include formal, linguistic, and computational aspects. We also discuss the concepts "formalism" and "syntactic theory", and include a presentation of Chomsky's Minimalism.

Students taking the course for credit are expected to give short in-class presentations on syntactic phenomena, and to submit a final course project.  There will also be weekly readings.

No previous exposure to linguistics or syntactic theory is assumed. The course is especially suited for students whose work touches on syntactic issues, and who need a thorough foundation in both descriptive and formal syntax. Students with no or little computational background can also profit from the course; course projects need not include a computational component.


SYLLABUS (Preliminary)


1 Introduction: what is morphology, syntax, semantics, the lexicon? 



2 Arguments and adjuncts; dependency and phrase-structure trees

3 Nominal and verbal complements, case, voice, agreement

4 Control, raising, exceptional case-marking, clausal adjuncts

5 Relative clauses, questions, "topicalization", tough-constructions

6 Conjunction, ellipsis, VP ellipsis

7 Noun phrases (again), binding, quantification



8 From CFG to TAG, phrase structure and dependency (revisited)

9 Some syntactic analyses in TAG

10 Computation and TAG

11 From PSG to GPSG to HPSG, computational issues

12 Some syntactic analyses in HPSG

13 LFG

14 Syntactic frameworks and syntactic theory: Minimalism

15 Wrap-up

16 Presentation of Term Projects