Linguistics Seminar: Noun Phrases

Nouns combine with a variety of other elements – determiners, quantifiers, adjectives, relative clauses and more – to form noun phrases. Dr. Gabi Danon's "Noun Phrases" seminar focuses on the structure of such phrases across a wide variety of languages, with the goal of trying to identify significant generalizations that go beyond the seemingly arbitrary restrictions on noun phrase structure in particular languages. Among the questions discussed in this seminar:

  • To what extent is the word order inside a noun phrase uniform across languages? Why is variation more common in certain areas of the noun phrase than in others?
  • How do noun phrases get their grammatical features, such as number, gender, person, definiteness or case?
  • How uniform are the categories of determiners, quantifiers and numerals in their syntactic properties? What constrains their syntactic position and their other syntactic properties?
  • What is the structure of complex noun phrases, such as partitives, genitive constructions, and noun phrases headed by argument-taking derived noun?

The seminar will involve reading and discussion of a variety of papers that represent current research in this field, as well as discussion of data from many different languages. A major goal of this seminar is to expose students to how research is done in theoretical linguistics, where we try to go from observations about linguistic data to abstract analyses that reveal the underlying reasons for what we see on the surface.