Fall 2017 - LING 820 G100

Formal Linguistics (4)

Class Number: 5662

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SWH 10061, Burnaby

    We 10:30 AM – 11:20 AM
    SWH 10061, Burnaby



Formal systems and their relation to linguistic methods and theory. Topics include the mathematical properties of natural languages, and rigorously defined frameworks for linguistic analysis and their formal properties.


This course will introduce you to the analysis of the abstract structures of natural language using rigorous formal techniques and mathematical reasoning. In particular, the course will cover basic techniques in mathematical linguistics and the precise properties of grammatical description in linguistics by studying grammar formalisms, formal languages and automata theory. To develop competence in mathematical reasoning, we will first start with a brief introduction to the basic concepts of set theory, relations, functions, and propositional logic. We will then go on to cover topics such as formal language and automata theory, and the generative capacity of different types of grammar formalisms -- finite-state grammars, context-free grammars, context-sensitive grammars, and mildly context-sensitive grammar formalisms such as Tree Adjoining Grammars.


  • Homework assignments 15%
  • Article presentation 15%
  • In-class exam 1 15%
  • In-class exam 2 20%
  • In-class exam 3 15%
  • Term paper 20%


Students should familiarize themselves with the Department's Standards on Class Management and Student Responsibilities at http://www.sfu.ca/linguistics/undergraduate/standards.html.
Please note that a grade of “FD” may be assigned as a penalty for academic dishonesty.
All student requests for accommodations for their religious practices must be made in writing by the end of the first week of classes or no later than one week after a student adds a course.
Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability, must contact the Centre for Students with Disabilities (778-782-3112 or csdo@sfu.ca).  



·      Sipser, Michael. 2013. Introduction to the Theory of Computation. Third edition. Course Technology.
·      Barbara H. Partee, Alice ter Meulen, and Robert E. Wall. 1993. Mathematical Methods in Linguistics. Kluwer Academic.
These books will be on reserve at the library. Additional reading materials will be distributed in class or made available on the course webpage.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html