questions for the comprehensive examination in English linguistics for AFN students


  1. Categories vs grammatical functions; their representation
  2. Rules & grammars: descriptive vs prescriptive
  3. The components of grammar & their interaction
  4. Design features of human language (vs other systems of communication)
  5. Grammaticality vs acceptability; competence vs performance
  6. E-language vs I-language; E-linguistics vs I-linguistics
  7. UG & the innateness hypothesis
  8. The role of experiments & medical cases in linguistics
  9. Variation & change at different levels of language structure
  10. Children's sounds/words/sentences


  1. Phonetics of English
    The speech organs and their role in the articulation of English sounds. Classification of sounds on an articulatory basis.
  2. The phonetic characteristics of English and Hungarian
    Compare English and Hungarian with respect to the phonetic characteristics of the two systems.
  3. Transcription and spelling
    Systems of transcription for English and their theoretical and practical problems. The relationship of spelling to sound, and the reasons for their discrepancies.
  4. Phonology and Phonetics
    Allophones and phonemes, distribution, redundant and distinctive features, underlying and surface representation, phonological rules.
  5. The English vowel system
    Underlying elements (phonemes). Vocalic contrasts. The phonological classification of English vowels. Vowel Reduction, tenseness/length, Vowel Shift.
  6. Predictability of tenseness/laxness of English vowels
    Trisyllabic Laxness/Laxing, Closed Syllable Laxing/Shortening, Prevocalic Tenseness, word-final open syllables
  7. English phonotactics
    The syllable in English, syllabification, sonority. Phonotactics: restrictions on onsets and codas, nuclei and rhymes.
  8. English word stress
    Stress assignment rules (1ry & 2ry), their relation to morphology and syntactic function (word class). Degrees of stress within the word. Stress in compounds.
  9. English intonation
    Tonality, tonicity, tone. Pitch contours. Neutral vs. nonneutral, focusing, emphasis, contrast. Relationship with syntax.
  10. The role of morphology in English phonology
    Structure dependence of phonological rules, strong-boundary and weak boundary affixes and the English phonological rules sensitive to the distinction.


  1. X-bar Syntax
    The notion of the head of a phrase. The distinction between specifiers, complements and adjuncts. The generality of the X-bar framework (CP/IP/DP). (Radford 1988; Haegeman 1994; Cook and Newson 1996, Newson 1997)
  2. The structure of the English Nominal Phrase
    Complementation and modification within the NP. The distinction between post-head and pre-head modification. The determiner system. The DP hypothesis. (Radford 1997; Giorgi and Longobardi 1991; Newson 1997)
  3. The structure of the English Verb Phrase
    The position of auxiliaries in the VP. The VP-internal subject hypothesis. The VP-shell Hypothesis (Radford 1997; Haegeman and Guéron 1999)
  4. Case
    The difference between abstract Case and morphological case. The assignment of nominative and accusative Case. Exceptional Case marking constructions. Of-insertion with nouns and adjectives (Radford 1988, Haegeman and Guéron 1999)
  5. Noun Phrase Movement
    The nature of NP movement in passive and raising structures. The role of Case in NP movement. NP traces as anaphors. (Radford 1988; Haegeman 1994; Cook and Newson 1996)
  6. Wh-Movement
    The nature of wh-movement in questions and relative clauses. Restrictions on wh-movement -- that-trace and strong crossover effects. Wh-traces as r-expressions. (Radford 1988; Haegeman 1994; Cook and Newson 1996)
  7. Head Movement
    The nature of head movement in tensed clauses and questions. Restrictions on head movement -- the head movement constraint and relativised minimality. The difference between English auxiliary and main verbs and the interaction with negation and question formation. (Radford 1988; Haegeman 1994; Cook and Newson 1996)
  8. Control
    The distribution of PRO. Subject and object control. The difference between control and raising structures. (Radford 1988; Haegeman and Guéron 1999)
  9. Relative Clauses
    The role of wh-movement in forming relative clauses. Deletion of the wh-element. The distinction between restrictive and non-restricted relative clauses. (Radford 1988; Haegeman 1994)
  10. Binding Theory
    The distribution of personal and reflexive pronouns. Principles A, B and C. The role of binding relationships in movement. (Radford 1988; Haegeman and Guéron 1999)