When a student starts learning syntax,1 how common is it to first teach them GB (or a stripped-down, GB-flavored approach), and then teach MP once they've got the hang of it?

This was obviously the way things were taught in the 90s, but I get the impression that it's still common, maybe even near-universal, today—much like physicists are taught Newton and Maxwell before learning relativity and quantum field theory. And I can think of good pedagogic rationales for it, not just "professors teach the way they were taught" (although I'd like to hear what actual professors' rationales actually are).

Is there an objective answer to this—maybe someone has surveyed the syllabi of different departments, or even written a paper on the best ways to teach (Chomskyan) syntax? Or, if not, is there at least an answer based on a deeper pool of anecdotal data than I have access to?

1. Assuming a Chomskyist linguistics department with the presumed ultimate goal of the students learning MP and being able to contribute to current research in mainstream generative grammar. Obviously a department that focused on teaching people, say, SBCG wouldn't start with MP, for completely different reasons.

  • 2
    I studied GB first (we used Haegeman's Introduction to Government and Binding Theory mostly), before taking advanced seminars in MP - at least, that was the case ten years ago (in the US).
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 23:22
  • Assuming you're good at Noam Chomsky linguistics, GB is 50% for being first to learn, Noam Chomsky said. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 3:27
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    I remember we studied Hornstein's book 'understanding minimlism', it's a state of the art introduction to MP with GB critiques explained. It doesn't provide the complete arena of GB, but it shows accurately how MP 'should' take over GB machinery. I think this is the best way to study Chomskyan theory, start with GB move to MP then introduce Phase Theory
    – Tsutsu
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 11:59
  • @TsutsuT. I think that's enough for a good answer. Reading the "The point of this book" section of Hornstein explains pretty well how the authors think people should learn MP. And it does seem to be one of the main textbooks people use. So just quoting that and adding your own anecdotal experience of why the approach works… I'd be fine with that as an answer, unless someone came up with something even better (like a study of students learning different approaches or something, which I doubt exists).
    – abarnert
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 20:11
  • @abarnert I'm working on a project of how MP can be taught (in a best way). I'm trying to start with the morphological aspect first (classify features), then put them into the course of derivation. If you're familiar with Borer's (2013) approach, I think this is a good point to start (A chomsky's recommendation in a lecture he gave as well). Starting with morphology, features of words, then move to syntactic projections, and deal with big issues (Theta, Case, Binding, ECP, Control, etc) with smart designe exercises.. I wish we were a group of researchers to work on the same project.
    – Tsutsu
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 11:45


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