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Syntax

(syntax)





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The first meaning of the term syntax can be described as the study of the rules, or "patternedrelations" that govern the way the words in a sentence come together. It concerns how different words (which, going back to Dionysios Trax , are categorized as nouns , adjectives , verbs , etc.)are combined into clauses , which, in turn, are combined into sentences.

In the earliest framework of semiotics (established by C.W. Morris in his 1938 book Foundations of the Theory of Signs) thesyntax is defined within the study of signs as one of its three subfields, the first beingsyntax (the study of the interrelation of the signs), the second subfield being semantics (thestudy of the relation between the signs and the objects to which they apply), and the third subfield beingpragmatics (the relationship between the sign system and the user).

In the framework of transformational-generative grammar (of which Governmentand Binding Theory and Minimalism are recent developments), the structure of a sentence is represented by phrase structure trees, otherwise known as phrase markers or treediagrams. Such trees provide information about the sentences they represent by showing how, starting from an initialcategory S (or, for ID/LPgrammar , Z), the various syntactic categories (e.g. noun phrase , verbphrase , etc.) are formed.

There are various theories as to how best to make grammars such that by systematic application of the rules, one can arrive atevery phrase marker in a language (and hence every sentence in the language). The most common are Phrase structuregrammars and ID/LPgrammars , the latter having a slight explanatory advantage over the former.

Dependency grammar is a class of syntactic theories separate from 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 phrasalcategories. Algebraic syntax is a type of dependency grammar.

Tree adjoining grammar is a grammar formalism whichhas been used as the basis for a number of syntactic theories.

see also: Phrase ,
Phrase structure rules ,
x-bar syntax ,
and Syntactic categories ,
Grammar ,
Algebraic syntax

The second 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 their parametersand the correct word order in the expression is called the syntax oflanguage. This second meaning can apply to natural languages, as well, as through Latin's inflectional case endings.

In computer languages, syntax can be extremely rigid, as in the case of most assembler languages, or less rigid, as inlanguages that make use of "keyword" parameters that can be stated in any order. The syntax of expressions can be specified withparse trees. The analysis of programming language syntaxusually entails the transformation of a linear sequence of tokens (a token is akin to an individual word or punctuationmark in a natural language) into a hierarchical syntax tree ( abstract syntax trees are one convenient form of syntax tree).

This process, called parsing, is in some respects analogous to syntactic analysis in linguistics ; in fact, certain concepts, such as the Chomsky hierarchy and context-free grammars , are common to the study of syntax in both linguistics and computer science.


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