LING 315 - Introduction to Syntax
Fall 2022, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of department.
Advisory Prerequisites:
LING 111, 209, or 210.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/29/22 - 12/9/22 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


This course will introduce you to the formal and scientific study of the syntax (sentence structure properties) of human language, as a domain of human cognition. It develops a scientific model to explain human knowledge of a language that also makes predictions about its representation in the mind. The focus here is on human language as a specific cognitive capacity restricted to humans, rather than on the individual languages (e.g. English, Arabic, Hindi) that are made possible by the existence of this capacity. For this reason, the course explores in detail many structural properties that are common across human languages. A simple example: all languages have specific strategies to ask questions that make them different from affirmative sentences (e.g. English uses special question words — ‘who’, ‘what’ and so on — as most languages do). In order to explain this and many other common properties of human language, a scientific hypothesis that has been explored in depth is that a large part of human knowledge of the language is biologically determined, and maybe innate. This is further supported by the fact that normal children effortlessly learn their native language at an amazing speed, despite the complexity of the task at hand (compare trying to learn for example Korean or Turkish as an adult, with years of language classes), and despite variation and deficiencies of the language input, they are exposed to.

However, it is also clear that there is a huge diversity among human languages, which can be illustrated only in an unfair way in this short description (e.g. only some languages change the sentence structure in a regular question: you say ‘Who do you like?’ in English, instead of ‘You like who?’, a possible word order similar to the one would find for instance in Chinese). Given this kind of diversity, which will be made clear, children need to be exposed to some minimum input of a particular language in order to be able to acquire it proficiently. Therefore, a major question that arises in the study of language and that will be an object of this course is how the hypothesis of a biological basis for human language — which offer an explanation for the common aspects among all human languages and for the striking success of the acquisition task — can be reconciled with the obvious diversity of the human language experience.

Intended Audience:

Although there are no official prerequisites, students usually take one introductory course in linguistics (Ling 111, 209 or 210) before taking this course. CogSci majors are also welcome to take this course.


LING 315 - Introduction to Syntax
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
8/29/22 - 12/9/22

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for LING 315.001

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for LING 315 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)