Word Grammar

Course PLINS203, Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, UCL

last updated 6 March 2003

Teacher: Dick Hudson (= me)

Term: Term 2, 2002-3 = 10 weeks.

Teaching Aims Assessment Topics Resources

Teaching provided:

  • 9 weekly lectures (I have to be away in the very last week of term)
  • 10 weekly back-up tutorials for all students who want them
  • 5 weekly practical classes for students who want them


  • Understanding of the main theoretical claims of Word Grammar.
    • The course will focus on syntax, but
    • it will make cross-references to morphology and semantics.
  • Understanding of the main elements of a Word-Grammar analysis of English syntax.
  • Ability to apply this syntactic analysis to texts.


A portfolio of work to be submitted by 17:00 on Friday 2nd May (late submissions will not be accepted) containing the following:

  • a full Word-Grammar syntactic analysis of any two English texts of at least 100 words, following the model that I shall present in the classes;
    • the analysis should include:
        • all dependency arrows, with labels
        • word-classes, including inflections,
        • coordination brackets
        • the dependency distance for each word
          • the summary statistics for dependency distance in each text
          • a brief comment on how well the statistics reflect the perceived difficulty of each text.
    • for an example of a text analysed as I want, see the Pinker text which is part of the Encyclopedia.

  • an essay of between 1,500 and 2,000 words on one of the following topics:
    • Language is a network.
    • Sentence structure is based on dependencies, not on phrases.
    • Syntax and morphology meet in the word.
    • A Word-Grammar analysis, with commentary, of any part of the grammar of a language other than English.
    • Any other topic that you've negotiated with me.

Topics for the lectures

(Handouts can be downloaded in Word format.)

  1. Dependency structure, phrase structure and coordination. (handout)
  2. Default inheritance, word classes, valents, selection, raising. (handout)
  3. The dependency hierarchy, word order, landmarks, surface structure.(handout)
  4. Extraction and extraposition. (handout)
  5. What's syntax for? Verb complements. (handout)
  6. Verb inflections. (handout)
  7. Morphology: inflectional morphology. (handout, extra: French)
  8. Derivational morphology. (handout)
  9. Understanding, memory, dependency distance. (handout)


  • The Encyclopedia of English Grammar and Word Grammar.
    • This is on the internet.
    • It's specially written for this course; I wrote the first editionion in 1966 and have revised it every other year since then, and I have just revised it to make it thoroughly up-to-date.
    • So this is the main resource for this course; it would have been 'the course textbook' if it had been a book, but it's not a book (though it is about the length of a modest book).
    • You should get to know it, but if you want extra information, please ask.
  • R. Hudson, English Grammar (Routledge 1998).
    • This is the textbook I use with first-year students, so you may already have a copy.
    • It's highly relevant to this course because it teaches you how to do elementary Word-Grammar analyses.
    • But the analyses that I expect in this course are more advanced than the ones in this book.
  • R. Hudson, English Word Grammar (Blackwell 1990).
    • I wrote this book 13 years ago, but much of it is still relevant and I refer to it quite a lot in the Encyclopedia.
    • It's out of print so you couldn't buy it (even if you could afford it!), but:
      • there are copies in the UCL library,
      • you can see the table of contents, and download three of the introductory chapters, from here.
  • There's a special tutorial on Word Grammar for graduate students who already know quite a lot about other theories of grammar.
  • There's a web site for Word Grammar which gives some history, links to other theories and much more.
  • Several of my research papers are available for downloading.
    • They include several introductory papers that survey the main ideas of Word Grammar.
    • They go back to 1997.
  • For help with sentence analysis, try these sites:
    • VISL - a Danish site designed to help secondary school children to do syntactic analysis.
      • the analyses are broadly similar to the ones you'll do in this course, though the notation is different and some details are very different.
      • try your hand at zapping flying adverbs!
    • The Internet Grammar of English - a site based in UCL.
      • teaches phrase-structure analyses, but these are generally easy to translate into Word Grammar.
      • includes some exercises.