Linguistic Research


Course Objective

- To broaden and deepen the students’ knowledge of grammatical theory
and of current debates in the field of linguistics;
- To enhance the students' ability to apply principles of linguistic
analysis, argumentation and explanation;
- To enhance the students’ skills for using linguistic terminology in a
precise and consistent manner;
- To enhance the students’ ability to reflect critically on linguistic
analyses put forward in the literature;
- To enhance the students’ ability to use grammatical notions from
phonology, morphology and syntax as analytical tools in applied
linguistic research.

Course Content

In the first week, the focus will be on phonetics and phonology. We
will go into the typology and the building blocks (chunks) of
phonological systems and the factors constraining the variation in
phonological systems. The seminar will focus on how infants use
computational strategies to detect the statistical and prosodic patterns
in language input, leading to the discovery of phonemes and words. We
will also study how native language phonetic performance is indicative
of neural commitment to the native language.

In the second week, we will study the internal structure and classes of
words and the acquisition of vocabulary. In the seminar, we will explore
whether language comprises a mental dictionary of memorized words and a
mental grammar of creative rules. We will go into regular and irregular
verbs, how they are learned and how they reside in the brain.

In week three we will focus on grouping words into phrases: nominal
categories and syntax. In the seminar, we will study the internal
(layered) structure of the noun phrase and we will tackle a number of
different questions such as: how do languages differ in the expression
of possession (construct state vs. prepositional genitives)? And: how
are gender and number features of the noun carried over to nominal
modifiers such as adjectives?

In week four we will study how phrases are grouped into simple clauses.
We will explore the relation between null subjects and rich verbal
inflection in the world's languages and the role of person marking on
the verb to identify rich vs. poor inflection languages and what this
means for L2 learners of a given language.

In the fifth week, the focus will be on clause combining. This includes
relative clauses, adverbial clauses, complement clauses, clause
conjoining, clause chaining, serial verb constructions, the recursion
debate, binding and local dependencies. In the seminar, we will try to
find out how knowledge of these phenomena helps us to better understand
the learnability of languages (relative clauses across languages,
languages with and without clitic doubling, the acquisition of these
phenomena by typical and atypical L1 and L2 learners).

In the sixth week, we will go into the field of pragmatics and focus on
aspects such as speech acts, politeness and honorific systems. In the
seminar, we will go into the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of
vocatives, and into grammatical elements expressing status or hierarchy
from a cross-linguistic perspective.

Teaching Methods

Lectures and seminars involving student participation, in total 4 hours
week. Lectures will be taught by prof. De Vries and seminars will be
taught by Prof. Coene.

Method of Assessment

Written exam.

Entry Requirements

Entrance requirements: students must have completed one or more Ba level
introductory courses in linguistics (e.g. Introduction tot linguistics
at the VU). If students have deficiencies in this regard, they have to
take an introductory course in linguistics prior to participating in
this Ma course, for instance the free online course Miracles of Human
Language (


Viveka Velupillai (2012). An Introduction to Linguistic Typology.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Morten H. Christiansen and Nick Chater (2016). Creating Language.
Integrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Further readings for each week will be listed in the course manual
(available through Canvas)

Target Audience

Students Ma Taalwetenschappen, Students of the Research Master in
Humanities (specialization Linguistics).

Additional Information

Students of the Research Master Humanities: Linguistics join this class
(Core Course Linguistics, 9 ECTS). They do extra assignments, have added
required reading and a different exam.

General Information

Course Code L_AAMATWS002
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator prof. dr. L.J. de Vries
Examiner prof. dr. L.J. de Vries
Teaching Staff prof. dr. L.J. de Vries
prof. dr. M.M.R. Coene
A. van Schie

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

This course is also available as: