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Linguistics 6B: Abbreviation in Digital Language


Admission requirements

Linguistics 2, Linguistics 3 (and preferably Linguistics 5b) are a prerequisite.


Sentences and phrases in English can be shortened in many ways, and such shortening (also called omission or ellipsis) has to comply with specific rules. In this course we research what can be omitted in standard English. To understand the grammar of omission, we identify the types of omissions and the syntactic and discourse conditions under which words and phrases can be omitted. In the second part of the course, we also look at more drastically abbreviated registers such as diaries, newspaper headlines, as well as SMS/WhatsApp messages, in which many elements can be omitted — articles, subjects and objects and even verbs — that normally cannot be omitted in the standard register. We will try to understand why abbreviated registers allow all these elements to be missing.
As part of this course, we brush up and expand on our knowledge of generative syntax (Linguistics 3).

Course objectives

In this course, students will:

  • become acquainted with basic grammatical theories of omission

  • learn to identify the types of omitted material and their properties

  • learn to apply knowledge to new linguistic data from English (and possibly other languages)

  • engage in independent research


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar, Research

Assessment method


  • Mid-term written exam

  • Final (written) research essay

  • Classroom discussions and presentations

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


  • Mid-term written exam: 50%

  • Essay: 30%

  • Presentation and participation: 20%.

A minimum of a 5.5 is required for both the essay and the final exam.


To pass the course, a minimum of a 5.5 is required for both the mid-term and the essay. If the mark for the final exam is a 5.49 or lower, the exam will have to be retaken during the resit period. If the mark for the essay is a 5.49 or lower, a resit essay will have to be submitted. There is no resit for presentations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Poole, G. (2011) Syntactic theory. Pagrave/Macmillan.
In addition, articles and book chapters to be provided in the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.

General information about MyStudyMap is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal


Not applicable.