Descriptive Grammar and Syntax of English

Course information


Descriptive Grammar and Syntax of English


Krisztina, Andrási

Course code





Room VII


Friday 14-16

Course description

Short description

The course provides a fundamental characterization of the nature of the English language. It also seeks to explain why English is the way it is and how language grammars work. Offering a comprehensive exploration of the underlying principles of grammar, the course aims at explaining what systematic regularities define language in general and English in particular.

The lectures give a survey of the major fields in the grammar of English: word classes, construction types, complementation and modification, clauses and ways to join them, as well as the principles that define grammatical relations. Topics include descriptive analyses of the tense and auxiliary systems, the case, number and gender systems, determiners, finite and nonfinite clause structures, and constituent order variation.

This course offers sound foundations for any further study in English linguistics.


1. The nature of language: form, meaning and use

2. Grammar and typology

3. Lexicon, word classes, basic concepts of morphology

4. Nominal expressions: nouns, pronouns, demonstratives; case, number, gender; possession

5. Verbs: subclasses, actions, states, processes

6. Time and reality

7. Voice and valence

8. Modification of nouns, verbs and clauses

9. Relative clause constructions

10. The simple sentence: sentence types and discourse functions, negation

11. Clause combining: complement clauses and complementation strategies

12. Clause combining: adverbial clauses, coordination

13. Pragmatic grounding: identifiability, referentiality

14. Information processing: focus, contrast and topicalization




Requirements to get the grade

Grading will be based on a final written exam (based on the lectures, handouts and readings) during the exam period, dates to be specified at the end of the semester. Occasional handouts will also be available on CooSpace.

Reading list

Dixon, R. M. W. 2010. Basic Linguistic Theory. Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (selected chapters)

Payne, Thomas Edward. 2011. Understanding English Grammar: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Suggested reading list

Berry, Roger. 2011. English Grammar. A Resource Book for Students. London and New York: Routledge.

Huddleston, Rodney & Geoffrey K. Pullum. 2005. A Student's Introduction to English Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.