Suppose we were wrong about X-bar theory. Suppose we were wrong about hierarchical structure altogether. Suppose there were no phrases, just words. Would it be possible to account for syntactic phenomena such as word order, coordination, pronominalisation and displacement? The standard wisdom is that all of these things point to the existence of hierarchical structures and therefore any attempt to do away with the notion is bound to fail.
In this course we will be challenging standard wisdom and showing that, with the aid of more recent grammatical mechanisms provided by Optimality Theory, a truly hierarchical-structureless approach to syntax is possible. We will start with a brief look at the history of hierarchical structure and point out places where the idea faces problems. We will then introduce the basics of Optimality Theory and show how this provides us with mechanisms that not only make a linear approach to syntax possible, but which addresses some of the problems faced by the structural approach.
The course is intended for BA students and so the technicalities will be kept to a minimum. However, some acquaintance with syntactic notions and at least some interest in the subject is required.