Syntacticians and semanticists at Berkeley are committed to making contributions to contemporary linguistic theory that are grounded in rigorous empirical work. Faculty and graduate students are actively involved in the in-depth study of individual languages — many of which are understudied and require on-site fieldwork.

A hallmark of the Berkeley program is its emphasis on the study of syntax as it relates to semantics, pragmatics, morphology, and the lexicon. Faculty and students today work within a number of different theoretical frameworks, including minimalism, formal semantics, distributed morphology, and construction grammar. In addition, research on syntax and semantics at Berkeley is enriched by historical, typological, and cognitive approaches, promoting a well-informed view of language as a whole.