Contrastive linguistics



This course focuses on the connection between linguistic description, typological variation, and formal linguistics by addressing a number of specific linguistic phenomena through the traditional grammar modules and their interfaces. One of the main goals of formal linguistics is to try to model the spectrum of variation documented in natural languages, which is not unlimited or random. In order to achieve this goal it is necessary to arrive at accurate descriptions of individual languages ​​that allow us to compare them with different properties from other languages. Linguistic typology, the study of linguistic universals or parametric approaches from the perspective of universal grammar address this topic with different theoretical and analytical tools that we will attempt to understand through a review of several case studies with a strong crosslinguistic component.

● Getting acquainted with models of formal analysis of language, focusing on morphosyntax and semantics topics.

● Examining a number of topics that have been and are central to linguistic theorizing.

● Learning linguistic argumentation.

● Learning how to present linguistic research.

Course plan

The course will be organized around a selection of topics such as the following ones:

Interrogatives: crosslinguistic approaches to their syntax

Comparative syntax and information structure: topic and focus  

The role of non-manual features in sign language grammars

Creole grammars and new languages. Language genesis and variation

Strategies of relativization

Linguistic reports: quotation and (in)direct speech

Negative structures: syntactic and semantic variation

Indefiniteness and polarity

Argument structure realization


The final grade will be based on the following. First, 30% of the grade will be based on continuous assessment of class participation and assignments, plus a class presentation of an article related to the issues under discussion. The remaining 70% of the grade will be based on a final exam that students will take home at the end of the quarter, for a period of 7 days.


Reevaluation for those not reaching a final grade of 5 in the standard evaluation will be done by resitting the take-home exam part. Candidates could only be those having obtained a minimum of 3 (range 3 - 4.9) and the final grade after re-evaluation can only be 5.

Examination-based assessment

Under exceptional and justified circumstances a single examination (100% of the grade) can be scheduled.  Re-evaluation can only be considered for those having obtained a minimum of 3 (range 3 - 4.9). The final grade can only be 5.


Cheng, L.-L- & N. Corver. 2013. Diagnosing Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cinque, Guglielmo & Richard S. Kayne. 2005. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Dikken, Marcel den. 2013. The Cambridge Handbook of Generative Syntax. Cambridsge: Cambridge University Press.

Freidin, Robert. 2012. Syntax. Basic concepts and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Haspelmath, Martin / König, Ekkehard / Oesterreicher, Wulf / Raible, Wolfgang (eds.). 2001. Language Typology and Language Universals. An International Handbook. 2 vols. Berlin / New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Mairal, Ricardo & Juana Gil (eds.). 2006. Linguistic universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Snyder, William (2007). Child Language. The Parametric Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.