linguistic field that studies the inner structure of sentences

In linguistics, syntax[a] is the study of the rules that govern the structure of sentences.

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.

Here are some important points about syntax:

  • Word Order: Different languages have different rules about the order in which words must appear in a sentence. For example, English generally follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) order in declarative sentences ("She eats apples").
  • Phrase Structure: Sentences are typically made up of phrases, which are groups of words that function as a unit within a sentence. Common types of phrases include noun phrases (NP), verb phrases (VP), prepositional phrases (PP), etc.
  • Grammatical Relations: Syntax deals with how different parts of a sentence relate to each other grammatically. This includes subjects and objects of verbs, modifiers of nouns, and other syntactic roles.
  • Sentence Types: Syntax also covers the formation of different types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory) and how they are structured differently.
  • Syntactic Ambiguity: Sometimes, sentences can be ambiguous because they can be parsed or interpreted in more than one way syntactically. For example, "I saw the man with the telescope" could mean "I used a telescope to see the man" or "I saw a man who had a telescope."
  • Syntax and Meaning: Syntax is closely related to semantics (the study of meaning). The arrangement of words in a sentence can affect the meaning and interpretation of that sentence.

Syntactic terms

  1. from Ancient Greek συν- syn-, “together”, and τάξις táxis, “arrangement”


  • Concise Encyclopedia of Syntactic Theories. New York: Elsevier Science. 1996. ISBN 0-08-042711-1.
  • Syntax. Critical Concepts in Linguistics. New York: Routledge. 2006. 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.

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