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Encyclopedia > Syntax
Theoretical linguistics
Lexical semantics
Statistical semantics
Structural semantics
Prototype semantics
Applied linguistics
Language acquisition
Linguistic anthropology
Generative linguistics
Cognitive linguistics
Computational linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
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Syntactic” redirects here. For another meaning of the adjective, see Syntaxis

In linguistics, syntax (from Ancient Greek συν- syn-, “together”, and τάξις táxis, “arrangement”) is the study of the rules that govern the structure of sentences, and which determine their relative grammaticality. The term syntax can also be used to refer to these rules themselves, as in “the syntax of a language”. Modern research in syntax attempts to describe languages in terms of such rules, and, for many practitioners, to find general rules that apply to all languages. Since the field of syntax attempts to explain grammaticality judgments, and not provide them, it is unconcerned with linguistic prescription. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Linguistics is the scientific study of language, which can be theoretical or applied. ... Theoretical linguistics is that branch of linguistics that is most concerned with developing models of linguistic knowledge. ... Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone meaning sound, voice) is the study of the sounds of human speech. ... Phonology (Greek phonÄ“ = voice/sound and logos = word/speech), is a subfield of linguistics which studies the sound system of a specific language (or languages). ... For other uses, see Morphology. ... In linguistics, the lexis of a language is the entire store of its lexical items. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... Lexical semantics is a field in computer science and linguistics which deals mainly with word meaning. ... Statistical Semantics is the study of how the statistical patterns of human word usage can be used to figure out what people mean, at least to a level sufficient for information access (Furnas, 2006). ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... Prototype Theory is a model of graded categorization in Cognitive Science, where some members of a category are more central than others. ... Pragmatics is the study of the ability of natural language speakers to communicate more than that which is explicitly stated. ... Applied linguistics is the branch of linguistics concerned with using linguistic theory to address real-world problems. ... Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics Language acquisition is the process by which the language capability develops in a human. ... Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, and understand language. ... Sociolinguistics is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context on the way language is used. ... Linguistic anthropology is that branch of anthropology that brings linguistic methods to bear on anthropological problems, linking the analysis of semiotic and particularly linguistic forms and processes (on both small and large scales) to the interpretation of sociocultural processes (again on small and large scales). ... Generative linguistics is a school of thought within linguistics that makes use of the concept of a generative grammar. ... In linguistics and cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL) refers to the currently dominant school of linguistics that views the important essence of language as innately based in evolutionarily-developed and speciated faculties, and seeks explanations that advance or fit well into the current understandings of the human mind. ... Computational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the statistical and logical modeling of natural language from a computational perspective. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Historical linguistics (also diachronic linguistics or comparative linguistics) is primarily the study of the ways in which languages change over time. ... Comparative linguistics (originally comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages in order to establish their historical relatedness. ... Not to be confused with Entomology, the scientific study of insects. ... Stylistics is the study of style used in literary, and verbal language and the effect the writer/speaker wishes to communicate to the reader/hearer. ... In linguistics, prescription can refer both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing how a language is to be used. ... Corpus linguistics is the study of language as expressed in samples (corpora) or real world text. ... Efforts to describe and explain the human language faculty have been undertaken throughout recorded history. ... A linguist in the academic sense is a person who studies linguistics. ... Unsolved problems in : Note: Use the unsolved tag: {{unsolved|F|X}}, where F is any field in the sciences: and X is a concise explanation with or without links. ... Syntax may refer to: Syntax Syntax (logic) Syntax (band) Category: ... In linguistics, syntax is the study of the rules, or patterned relations, that govern the way the words in a sentence come together. ... Syntaxis (contrasted to parataxis) is a writing or rhetorical style that favors complex syntax, as against simple sentence structures. ... Linguistics is the scientific study of language, which can be theoretical or applied. ... Note: This article contains special characters. ... Universal grammar is a theory of linguistics postulating principles of grammar shared by all languages, thought to be innate to humans. ... In linguistics, prescription can refer both to the codification and the enforcement of rules governing how a language is to be used. ...

Though all theories of syntax takes human as their object of study, there are some significant differences in outlook. Modern linguists see syntax as a branch of biology, since they conceive syntax as the study of linguistic knowledge as embodied in the human mind/brain. Others (e.g. Gerald Gazdar) take a more Platonistic view, regarding syntax as the study of an abstract formal system. [1]; others also (e.g. Joseph Greenberg) consider grammar as a taxonomical device to reach broad generalizations among languages. Gerald Gazdar is a linguist and computer scientist. ... // Philosophy of mathematics is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of mathematics. ... Joseph Greenberg Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915–May 7, 2001) was a prominent and controversial linguist, known for his work in both language classification and typology. ...


Early history

poopoopooWorks on grammar were of course being written long before modern syntax came about; the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini is often cited as an example of a pre-modern work that approaches the sophistication of a modern syntactic theory.[1] In the West, the school of thought that came to be known as ‘traditional grammar’ began with the work of Dionysius Thrax. Indian postage stamp depicting (2004), with the implication that he used (पाणिनि; IPA ) was an ancient Indian grammarian from Gandhara (traditionally 520–460 BC, but estimates range from the 7th to 4th centuries BC). ... Dionysius Thrax (Διονύσιος Θράξ) (170 BC‑90 BC) was a Hellenistic era Greek grammarian who lived and is thought by some to have worked in Alexandria and later at Rhodes. ...

For centuries, work in syntax was dominated by a framework known as grammaire générale, first expounded in 1660 by Antoine Arnauld in a book of the same title. This system took as its basic premise the assumption that language is a direct reflection of thought processes, and that hence there is a single most natural way to express a thought (which, coincidentally, was exactly the way it was expressed in French). Antoine Arnauld, (1612 - August 8, 1694) — le grand as contemporaries called him, to distinguihs him from his father — was a French Roman Catholic theologian and writer. ...

However, in the 19th century, with the development of historical-comparative linguistics, linguists began to realize the sheer diversity of human language, and to question fundamental assumptions about the relation between language and logic. It became apparent that there was no such thing as a most natural way to express a thought, and logic could no longer be relied upon as a base for studying the structure of language. Historical linguistics (also diachronic linguistics or comparative linguistics) is primarily the study of the ways in which languages change over time, by means of examining languages which are recognizably related through similarities such as vocabulary, word formation, and syntax, as well as the surviving records of ancient languages. ...

The Port-Royal grammar modelled the study of syntax on that of logic (indeed, large parts of the Port-Royal Logic were copied or adapted from the Grammaire générale[2]). Syntactic categories were identified with logical ones, and all sentences were analysed into the form "Subject-Copula-Predicate". Initially, this view was adopted even by the early comparative linguists (e.g., Bopp), And then Marry had a little lamb Port-Royal Logic, or Logique Port-Royal, is the common name of La logique, ou larte de penser, an important work on logic first published anonymously in 1662 by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, two pupils of the Jansenist Port-Royal school. ... Franz Bopp (September 14, 1791 - October 23, 1867) was a German linguist known for extensive comparative work on Indo-European languages. ...

The central role of syntax within theoretical linguistics became clear only in the last century which could reasonably called the "century of syntactic theory" as far as linguistics is concerned. For a detailed and critical survey of the history of syntax in the last two centuries see the monumental work by Graffi 2001.

Modern theories

Generative grammar consitutes one of the most innovative ideas in linguistics since its origin. There are two features shared by most theories of formal syntax. First, they hierarchically group subunits into constituent units (usually referred to as phrases). Second, they provide a system of rules to explain why certain utterances seem more acceptable or grammatical than others. Most formal theories of syntax also offer explanations of the systematic relationships between syntax and semantics, in other words, between form and meaning. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Generative linguistics. ... Look up phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In general, semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or significant meaning, derived from sema, sign) is the study of meaning, in some sense of that term. ...

Main article: Generative grammar
Phrase structure tree
Phrase structure tree

In the framework of transformational-generative grammar (of which government and binding theory and minimalism are recent developments), the structure of a sentence is represented by phrase structure trees, otherwise known as phrase markers or tree diagrams. Such trees provide information about the sentences they represent by showing the hierarchical relations between their component parts. Dependency grammar is a different type of generative grammar in which structure is determined by the relation between a word (a head) and its dependents. One difference from phrase structure grammar is that dependency grammar does not have phrasal categories. Algebraic syntax is a type of dependency grammar. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Generative linguistics. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Transformational grammar is a broad term describing grammars (almost exclusively those of natural languages) which have been developed in a Chomskyan tradition. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... In linguistics, a sentence is a unit of language, characterized in most languages by the presence of a finite verb. ... Dependency grammar (DG) is a class of syntactic theories separate from generative grammar. ... Algebraic syntax is a theory of syntax developed by Michael Brame as an alternative to Transformational_generative grammar. ...

A modern approach to combining accurate descriptions of the grammatical patterns of language with their function in context is that of systemic functional grammar, an approach originally developed by Michael A.K. Halliday in the 1960s. Systemic-functional grammar is related both to feature-based approaches such as Head-driven phrase structure grammar and to the older functional traditions of European schools of linguistics such as British Contextualism and the Prague School. This article needs more context around or a better explanation of technical details to make it more accessible to general readers and technical readers outside the specialty, without removing technical details. ...

Tree-adjoining grammar is a grammar formalism with interesting mathematical properties which has sometimes been used as the basis for the syntactic description of natural language. In monotonic and monostratal frameworks, variants of unification grammar are often preferred formalisms. Tree-adjoining grammar (TAG) is a grammar formalism defined by Aravind Joshi which is often used in computational linguistics and natural language processing. ...

With the publication of Gold's Theorem[3] 1967 it was claimed that grammars for natural languages governed by deterministic rules could not be learned based on positive instances alone. This was part of the argument from the poverty of stimulus, presented in 1980[4] and implicit since the early works by Chomsky of the 1950s. This led to the nativist view, that a form of grammar (including a complete conceptual lexicon in certain versions) were hardwired from birth. The manner in which a child acquires language is a matter long debated by linguists and child psychologists alike. ... In the field of psychology, nativism is the view that certain skills or abilities are native or hard wired into the brain at birth. ...

A grammar is a description of the syntax of a language. Theoretical models rarely consider the language in use, as revealed by corpus linguistics, but focus on a mental language or i-language as its "proper" object of study. In contrast, the "empirically responsible"[5] approach to syntax seeks to construct grammars that will explain language in use. A key class of grammars in the latter tradition are the stochastic context-free grammars. Corpus linguistics is the study of language as expressed in samples (corpora) or real world text. ... ... A stochastic context-free grammar (SCFG; also probabilistic context-free grammar, PCFG) is a context-free grammar in which each production is augmented with a probability. ...

A problem faced in any formal syntax is that often more than one production rule may apply to a structure, thus resulting in a conflict. The greater the coverage, the higher this conflict, and all grammarians (starting with Panini) have spent considerable effort devising a prioritization for the rules, which usually turn out to be defeasible. Another difficulty is overgeneration, where unlicensed structures are also generated. Probabilistic grammars circumvent these problems by using the frequency of various productions to order them, resulting in a "most likely" (winner-take-all) interpretation, which by definition, is defeasible given additional data. As usage patterns are altered in diachronic shifts, these probabilistic rules can be re-learned, thus upgrading the grammar. Indian postage stamp depicting (2004), with the implication that he used (IPA ) was an ancient Gandharan grammarian (approximately 5th century BC, but estimates range from the 7th to the 3rd centuries) who is most famous for formulating the 3,959 rules of Sanskrit morphology known as the . ...

One may construct a probabilistic grammar from a traditional formal syntax by assigning each non-terminal a probability taken from some distribution, to be eventually estimated from usage data. On most samples of broad language, probabilistic grammars that tune these probabilities from data typically outperform hand-crafted grammars (although some rule-based grammars are now approaching the accuracies of PCFG).

Recently, probabilistic grammars appear to have gained some cognitive plausibility. It is well known that there are degrees of difficulty in accessing different syntactic structures (e.g. the Accessibility Hierarchy for relative clauses). Probabilistic versions of minimalist grammars have been used to compute information-theoretic entropy values which appear to correlate well with psycholinguistic data on understandability and production difficulty.[6] In linguistics, Accessibility Hierarchy is a cross-linguistic property that relative clauses are more difficult to process in certain roles: Subject > Direct Object > Indirect Object > Oblique > Genitive > Object of comparative The hierarchy was proposed by Keenan and Comrie (1977). ... A relative clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a noun. ... In linguistics, a transformational grammar, or transformational-generative grammar (TGG), is a grammar, especially of a natural language, that has been developed in a Chomskian tradition. ... For a less technical and generally accessible introduction to the topic, see Introduction to entropy. ...

Statistical grammars are not subject to Gold's theorem since the learning is incremental.

See also

Look up phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Phrase-structure rules were used in early transformational grammar (TGG) to describe a given languages syntax. ... A syntactic category is either a phrasal category, such as noun phrase or verb phrase, which can be decomposed into smaller syntactic categories, or a lexical category, such as noun or verb, which cannot be further decomposed. ... A list of phenomena in syntax. ... For the rules of English grammar, see English grammar and Disputes in English grammar. ... X-bar theory is a component of linguistic theory which attempts to identify syntactic features common to all languages. ... Algebraic syntax is a theory of syntax developed by Michael Brame as an alternative to Transformational_generative grammar. ...

Syntactic terms

In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun (called the adjectives subject), giving more information about what the noun or pronoun refers to. ... An adjective is a part of speech which modifies a noun, usually describing it or making its meaning more specific. ... The following is about the linguistics term; adjunct is also a conjunct disjunct adverbial Categories: Linguistics stubs ... “Adverbs” redirects here. ... There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Apposition. ... An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ... In linguistics, an auxiliary (also called helping verb, auxiliary verb, or verbal auxiliary) is a verb functioning to give further semantic or syntactic information about the main or full verb following it. ... In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun indicates its grammatical function in a greater phrase or clause; such as the role of subject, of direct object, or of possessor. ... In grammar, a clause is a word or group of words ordinarily consisting of a subject and a predicate, although in some languages and some types of clauses, the subject may not appear explicitly. ... A closed word class, in linguistics, is a word class to which no new items can normally be added, and that usually contains a relatively small number of items. ... In grammar the comparative is the form of an adjective or adverb which denotes the degree or grade by which a person, thing, or other entity has a property or quality greater or less in extent than that of another. ... A complement is a phrase that fits a particular slot in the syntax requirements of a parent phrase. ... A compound is a word composed of more than one free morphemes. ... In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (regular alteration according to rules of grammar). ... In grammar, a dangling modifier or misplaced modifier is a word or phrase that is intended to modify one element of a sentence, but that — due to its placement — seems to modify another. ... In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns and adjectives to indicate such features as number (typically singular vs. ... Determiners are words which quantify or identify nouns. ... Dual is the grammatical number used for two referents. ... The word expletive is currently used in three senses: syntactic expletives, expletive attributives, and bad language. The word expletive comes from the Latin verb explere, meaning to fill, via expletivus, filling out. It was introduced into English in the seventeenth century to refer to various kinds of padding — the padding... Function words are words that have little lexical meaning or have ambiguous meaning, but instead serve to express grammatical relationships with other words within a sentence, or specify the attitude or mood of the speaker. ... In linguistics, grammatical gender is a morphological category associated with the expression of gender through inflection or agreement. ... In linguistics, a gerund is a non-finite verb form that exists in many languages. ... In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. ... Measure words, in linguistics, are words (or morphemes) that are used in combination with a numeral to indicate the count of nouns. ... Modal particles are always uninflected words, and are a type of grammatical particle. ... A movement paradox is a grammatical phenomenon which, particularly according to proponents of lexical functional grammar, presents some problems for a transformational approach to syntax. ... In grammar, a modifier (aka qualifier) is a word or sentence element that limits or qualifies another word, a phrase, or a clause. ... In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood (or mode), which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent. ... In linguistics, a noun or noun substantive is a lexical category which is defined in terms of how its members combine with other grammatical kinds of expressions. ... In linguistics, grammatical number is a morphological category characterized by the expression of quantity through inflection or agreement. ... An object in grammar is a sentence element and part of the sentence predicate. ... An open word class, in linguistics, is a word class that accepts the addition of new items, through such processes as compounding, derivation, coining, borrowing, etc. ... A parasitic gap is a grammatical construction. ... In grammar, a part of speech or word class is defined as the role that a word (or sometimes a phrase) plays in a sentence. ... In linguistics, the term particle is often employed as a useful catch-all lacking a strict definition. ... Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to the participant role of a referent, such as the speaker, the addressee, and others. ... Look up phrase in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In the English language, a phrasal verb is a verb combined with an uninflected preposition, an adverb, or an adverbial particle; for example, stand up. A phrasal verb is also called verb-particle construction, verb phrase, multi-word verb, or compound verb. ... Look up plural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In traditional grammar, a predicate is one of the two main parts of a sentence (the other being the subject, which the predicate modifies). ... The predicative is an element of the predicate of a sentence which supplements the subject or object by means of the verb. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with adposition. ... Personal pronouns are pronouns often used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. ... In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase with or without a determiner, such as you and they in English. ... In syntax, the concept of restrictiveness applies to a variety of syntactical constructions. ... Sandhi is a cover term for a wide variety of phonological processes that occur at morpheme or word boundaries. ... In linguistics, a sentence is a unit of language, characterized in most languages by the presence of a finite verb. ... In linguistics, grammatical number is a morphological category characterized by the expression of quantity through inflection or agreement. ... According to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle, every sentence can be divided in two main constituents, one being the subject of the sentence and the other being its predicate. ... For the noun case, see superlative case. ... Grammatical tense is a way languages express the time at which an event described by a sentence occurs. ... In the context of linguistic morphology, an uninflected word is a word that has no morphological marks (inflection) such as affixes, Umlaut, Ablaut, consonant gradation, etc. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... In grammar, the voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc. ... Wh-movement or wh-fronting is a syntactic phenomenon whereby interrogative words (sometimes called wh-words) appear at the beginning of an interrogative sentence. ... In linguistic typology, word order is the order in which words appear in sentences. ...


  1. ^ Fortson IV, Benjamin W. (2004). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-0315-9 (hb); 1-4051-0316-7 (pb). “[pooooooooooooooooopThe Aṣṭādhyāyī] is a highly precise and thorough description of the structure of Sanskrit somewhat resembling modern generative grammar…[it] remained the most advanced linguistic analysis of any kind until the twentieth century.” 
  2. ^ Arnauld, Antoine (1683). La logique, 5th ed., Paris: G. Desprez, 137. “Nous avons emprunté…ce que nous avons dit…d'un petit Livre…sous le titre de Grammaire générale. 
  3. ^ Gold, E. (1967). Language identification in the limit. Information and Control 10, 447-474.
  4. ^ Chomsky, N. (1980). Rules and representations Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  5. ^ George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. Part IV.. New York: Basic Books.. 
  6. ^ John Hale (2006). "Uncertainty About the Rest of the Sentence". Cognitive Science 30: 643-672. DOI:doi:10.1207/s15516709cog0000_64. 

jual. A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ...


  • Brown, Keith; Jim Miller (eds.) (1996). Concise Encyclopedia of Syntactic Theories. New York: Elsevier Science. ISBN 0-08-042711-1. 
  • Freidin, Robert; Howard Lasnik (eds.) (2006). Syntax, Critical Concepts in Linguistics. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24672-5. 
  • Graffi, Giorgio (2001). 200 Years of Syntax. A Critical Survey, Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 98. Amsterdam: Benjamins. ISBN 90-272-4587-8. 

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Syntax - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (608 words)
Syntax is defined, within the study of signs, as the first of its three subfields (the study of the interrelation of the signs).
Another meaning of the term syntax has been evolved in the field of computer science, especially in the subfield of programming languages, where the set of allowed reserved words and possible token order in a program is called the syntax of a language.
The syntax of computer languages is often at level-2 (ie, a context-free grammar) in the Chomsky hierarchy.
  More results at FactBites »



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