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Processing Syntax and Semantics


Admission requirements

Students must have registered for Psycholinguïstiek, Neurolinguïstiek, Semantiek 1, Syntaxis 1 and Practicum Psycholinguïstiek in the past.


In this course we will cover the basic literature on syntactic and semantic processing by focusing on experimental work that has implemented theoretically-based questions over the past 40 years. Issues such as ambiguity resolution or garden-path effects raise questions about the functioning of the human parser. We will discuss essential psycholinguistic phenomena such as long-distance dependencies, locality, plausibility and frequency effects, together with scope relations and compositionality.
Among the materials to be used we will read classic articles and some chapters on both syntactic and semantic processing. These readings will be compiled within a Reader for the course.

Course objectives

Students will acquire the basic background knowledge on the classic literature within the area of syntactic and semantic sentence processing, to allow them to explore this area of research further in the future building on the acquired knowledge.

Students will acquire the following skills:

  • Be familiarized with the background on sentence processing

  • Critical analysis of the different parsing models

  • Capability to create a research question on sentence processing and to be able to generate an original experiment proposal

To achieve these objectives, students will be required to write a paper on one of the topics discussed within the course and try to propose an idea of their own for a potential experiment, concentrating mainly on the theoretical assumptions and predictions and suggesting a (potential) methodology.



Mode of instruction


Course load

This course will be worth 5 EC, which correspond to 140 hours distributed as follows:

  • 26 hours of lectures (13 lectures of 2 hours each)

  • 7 hours of article summary preparation (1 article of ~15 pages per student): [15 pages/7 pages per hour = 2 hours] + [5 hours to prepare content and write summary]

  • 73 hours to study and be familiarized with compulsory literature ([~2 articles per lecture: 55 hours] + [3 background chapters ~125pages total: 18 hours])

  • 36 hours of paper writing

Assessment method

Paper and summary of some articles that will be discussed in the course.
Students will get their total grade (5 ECs) out of the following combination:
(i) 40% will be based on a short summary of some of the articles that they will read from the course program, which they will revise via the PeerMark system in Blackboard
(ii) 60% will be the research paper they have to produce at the end of the course
The resit will consist of rewriting the paper that the student submitted for the course based on the suggestions for improvement suggested by the Instructor.

Exam review

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 have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used during the whole semester. The materials to be discussed during the lectures will be specified in BB and additional information about reading summaries and PeerMark assignments will also be specified in the course’s BB.

Reading list

Syllabi of the specific articles to be discussed will be specified during the upcoming months.
A Reader with articles and chapters selected for the course will be made available to students.


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher:
Letitia Pablos Robles

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: Else van Dijk


The idea of this course is to have students familiarize themselves with the classic syntactic and semantic processing literature so that they will be capable to come up with a potential scriptie topic by the end of their BA.