LINGUIST List 15.1485

Tue May 11 2004

Sum: Undergrad/Grad Classes in Syntax

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Stanley Dubinsky, Summary: undergrad/grad classes in syntax

Message 1: Summary: undergrad/grad classes in syntax

Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 06:46:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: Stanley Dubinsky <>
Subject: Summary: undergrad/grad classes in syntax

Re: (Linguist 15.1352)

We received responses from faculty at the following institutions: The
Ohio State University, Stony Brook University (SUNY), Syracuse
University, University of Alberta, University of Arizona, and
University of Florida.

With regard to mixing grad and undergrad populations in introductory
phonology and syntax courses, the institutions surveyed gave mixed
responses. Some used to have combined grad/undergrad classes, and no
longer do so. Others do have combined grad/undergrad audiences.
Where grad and undergrad populations are mixed together successfully,
it usually involves BA and MA students. It is also noted that
"advanced" or "smart" undergrads do best in such classes.

With regard to work and grading standards for the different groups,
most report at least nominal differences in requirements or standards
(sometimes required by the university). In practice though, it would
appear that bright undergraduates sometimes outshine the average MA
student, making it more difficult to apply higher standards and
workloads to one group over the other.

The questions and individual replies are appended here below. Thanks
to all who responded, Stan Dubinsky

1. For first semester syntax and phonology, my institution offers
{one course/separate courses} for graduate and undergraduate students.

In our Intro to English grammar, we used to combine the undergrad and
grad enrollees, but the undergrads constantly felt threatened in that
they were being evaluated in competition with the graduate students,
and the graduate students felt the course was being watered down for
the benefit of the undergraduates. Partly as a result of the student
evaluations, we separated the two classes, and shifted the orientation
of both to more specific goals.

[We] used to do it, but we found that first year graduate students
usually had some background in syntax and phonology, while
undergraduate majors didn't, so we separated the courses. Now
undergraduates who do well in the undergrad courses can take the intro
graduate courses and benefit from them.
[We offer] joint courses in both phonology and syntax for entering
graduate students and senior (fourth year and honours) undergraduate

We offer separate first semester syntax and phonology and phonetics
courses for undergrads and grads. As for other courses, we often
permit advanced, smart undergrads to take a grad course, with a lot of
success. Occasionally too we combine undergrad classes with grad
courses aimed at students in the MA in TESOL program, [such as] the
structure of English, Lg acquisition, 2nd lg acq, sociolinguistics,
and these are usually unsuccessful because our undergrads have much
more prior ling courses and are usually more academically competent
than our MA TESOL students. The undergrads get frustrated and

We offer combined courses: Lin4xx/6xx (Intro to) Phonology and
Lin4xx/6xx (Intro to) Syntax.

My institution combines MA/BA Linguistics students into a single first
semester syntax course, and a single first semester phonology course.
These are often the most advanced courses that our students take
enroute to the B.A. or M.A. However, ALL students are required to
take an intro. to Linguistics (again, undergrad. & grad. combined)
that investigates the basic concepts of syntax and phonology.
Finally, the M.A. is the most advanced degree awarded here at .

2. If one course is offered, are requirements/grading standards
different for each group?

[Our] university requires, if undergraduate and graduate classes are
''co-convened'', that the description of the graduate class clearly
indicate a differentiated set of requirements, demonstrating that
there is additional work to be done by graduate students over and
above that required for undergraduates.

Each of the courses is a bit different ... the syntax class [uses] a
different evaluation scheme and sets of evaluation tools for each
group (though over the years the two have come to resemble each other
more and more), but students have the same readings and the same
expectations regarding class participation, group work, etc. ... the
phonology class uses the same evaluation tools for both groups, though
marks are assigned to each group of students separately (that is,
members of each group are ranked internally against one another).

For phonology, the requirements are slightly different for each group.
The grad students have to do more problems on each homework assignment
and take-home test, and when time allows, they do more presentations
in class than the undergrads. not sure about syntax, but I suspect
it's similar.

Officially, yes... Grad. students are expected to do a more in-depth
final paper or project. In actuality, however, whether or not a
student is a grad. or undergrad. is often blurred as the latter
sometimes outshine the former with respect to abilities.

3. Department name, university name.

Department of Linguistics. The Ohio State University Linguistics
Department, Stony Brook University (SUNY) Department of Languages,
Literatures, and Linguistics, Syracuse University Linguistics
Department, University of Alberta Linguistics Department, University
of Arizona Program in Linguistics, University of Florida
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