At right about the nose level
September 3, 2010 9:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm enrolled in an advanced semantics class, wherein I'm 1 of 2 undergraduates. It's been a year and a half since I've studied syntax in any way and the class is (after one day) very syntax heavy. Can the hive-mind help me find a good syntax refresher?

I purposefully took the class knowing that I would be not in over my head, but more precisely at my head. I know I need to play catch up with the grad students who know a lot more and have studied a lot more recently the content we're discussing.

I realized my need for a brush up of my syntax knowledge when we started discussing pronouns and whether or not Binding Condition C even existed and it was suggested to read Lasnik's 1981 article. I tried to read the article and was kind of hopelessly lost halfway through.

When I moved I sold my Syntax (Andrew Carnie) textbook, which I now realize was incredibly stupid. The refresher would ideally be online and free, but an inexpensive alternative is OK too.

I plan on spending a fair amount of time in office hours with my professor, but I'm feeling really unprepared right now and don't want to go until I can at least follow the Lasnik article.

posted by shesdeadimalive to Education (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a librarian at your university library who can help you? Maybe there's a text there, possibly for a prerequisite class, that will exactly fit your needs.
posted by amtho at 9:27 PM on September 3, 2010

My favorite syntax book is James McCawley's The Syntactic Phenomena of English. On the minus side, it's about 800 pages long. On the plus side, it's written as an introduction so it starts gently. At the least it should get you back into thinking like a syntactician.

It's not Chomskyan, which could be bad if the class is heavily Chomskyan. (But good for you in the long run.)
posted by zompist at 3:29 AM on September 4, 2010

The Lexicon of Linguistics is not a comprehensive review of syntactic theory, but it can be very handy when you can't remember what a piece of terminology means. Most entries include examples.
posted by deeparch at 6:40 AM on September 4, 2010

From your profile, it looks like you might be at UW Madison. If so, your library has a copy of the carnie book, not checked out (though I'm not sure which edition). Actually, any academic library should have a copy of this book.

I can't give you any specific suggestions on the Lasnik article because I only have a hard copy and it is not at home. But in general, when approaching binding theory papers of that era, I would recommend the following approach: (i) look at the data (organize it into groups if possible; here you could try to structure it around your knowledge of condition C), see if you share the key judgments, and try to find the generalizations. (ii) see if you can find a statement of the empirical generalizations in the paper, and how much this matches what you came up with. (iii) only then try to really understand the theoretical framework that was being used at the time. A lot of the terminology was subtly (and sometimes not-subtly) different then, and the lexicon that deeparch linked to will be especially helpful for step 3.
posted by advil at 9:31 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

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