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Among syntax ( ancient Greek σύνταξις syntaxis from σύν sy n , together 'and τάξις taxis , order, order') is generally understood as a control system for the combination of elementary mark on composite characters in natural or artificial sign systems. The assembly rules of the syntax are opposed to the interpretation rules of the semantics .

In particular is understood to mean syntax , the syntax , a subsection of the grammar of natural language , which the joining of words or word groups to sets ( sentence structure (such as a certain prescribed) on the basis of grammatical laws set position ) treated or sets underlying regular pattern ( sentence structure ) describes. The syntax is usually distinguished from the linguistic morphology , which deals with the internal structure of the words, although the transitions between the two areas can be fluid.

The term syntax is used for natural and formal languages. The relationship between natural and formal syntax is seen differently. For the logician Richard Montague ( Universal Grammar , 1970) there was no difference in principle.

Just like the term grammar , the term syntax can refer to the structural properties of sign systems themselves or to the theoretical-scientific description of these structural properties.

Natural language syntax (natural syntax)

Position of syntax in grammar

In terms of natural languages , syntax is a division of grammar and closely related to morphology . The demarcation between them refers to the complexity levels of the grammatical structure of linguistic expressions. For example: From the minimal language sign ( morpheme ) ask as a word stem to the extended form by adding the prefix be to the word form questioned , the morphology is responsible. From then on the levels of complexity upwards, i.e. from the syntagmatic questioning of the candidate to the simple sentence (if) you question the candidate to the compound sentence, hold back, if you question the candidate , the syntax is responsible. For syntax, the word form is a whole, with the internal structure of which syntactic rules have nothing to do with; they just have to “know” which syntactically relevant morphological categories the word form actually belongs to. So determined z. B. a syntactic rule that the predicate verb in when you ask the candidate is in congruence with his subject in the second person singular. But how this form is (in this verb), so the morphology care (. When the verb, for example, lets in would, it meadow - unlike befragst - umlaut on).

Problems of demarcation between syntax and morphology can u. a. measured by phrasal compound words such as going down (one or two words?) or riding artillery troop (the attribute riding belongs to artillery , which in turn is part of another word). The Derivation , as part of the word education is part of the morphology, has a syntactic aspect.

Sentence syntax, word syntax, text syntax

In the traditional sense, syntax means the theory of the sentence (i.e. the theory of the correct sentence structure ) or the sentence structure itself. Syntax as part of grammar deals with the patterns and rules according to which words are combined into larger functional units, such as the sentence just mentioned and relationships such as part-whole, dependency, etc. are formulated between these clauses .

Apart from this set-centered perspective ( sentence syntax , sentence syntax ) occurs in a broader sense of an intra verbal syntax or word syntax (also: word syntax or morphotactics ), the combinatorial rules examined in morphology, and by a text syntax ( text syntax ), which deals with the rules of combining sentences into texts. The use of the word syntax , in which syntax is coextensive with grammar (i.e. either including morphology or adding to phonology), is found primarily in English-language linguistics and in the theory of formal languages ​​(in which morphology does not play a role).

Sentence Syntax Theories

In general linguistics, there is a variety and competition of syntax models , theories, and schools. "Each of the models presented has its strengths and weaknesses." In addition to the models of traditional school grammar, the syntax is based on hypothetical, universal, innate form principles ( Noam Chomsky ) or their communicative purpose ( functional syntax ) or their role in the construction of complex meanings (logical semantics , Montague or categorical grammar). Many such models are listed in the Syntax Theory article . The more important ones include:

The syntactic structure of a natural language sentence is represented differently in these models. They represent the variants of the phrase structure grammar in the form of a structure tree, which graphically reproduces the part-whole relationships of the constituents of the sentence. The dependency grammar represents it in the form of a stem, which reflects the dependencies between the words.

Formal language syntax

The syntax of a formal language (formal syntax) - such as calculi in logic and mathematics or programming languages in computer science - is a system of rules according to which well-formed (“syntactically correct”) expressions, formulas, program texts or other texts can be formed from a basic set of characters (the alphabet ). The rules can take the form of derivation rules for a formal grammar or they can be formulated in natural language.

If it is only about the well-formedness or correctness, the meaning of the characters can be disregarded. If, however, semantics are to be defined on the well-formed expressions, this is usually done inductively using the same rules that also define the syntax, so that the meaning of a complex expression results from the meaning of its components and the rule for the composition ( Frege Principle ). For example, in the language definition of programming languages, the priority of the operators is reflected in the formal grammar of the language, so that, according to their syntactic rules, an expression can only be read as a sum, but not as a product. That would have played no role for the sheer well-formedness.

The programming language Algol 60 was the first to be described with a formal syntax that was written in the Backus-Naur form (BNF; named after two of the authors of the language definition). Since then, formal syntax descriptions have become generally accepted for programming languages, namely with the help of different versions and extensions of the BNF or syntax diagrams , not least because analysis programs ( parsers ) can be automatically generated from the formal rules under certain conditions . As a result, the syntax of a programming language is often only understood to mean these rules, but not those syntax rules that cannot be expressed using context-free grammars , such as the obligation to declare occurring names.

The XML markup language has a syntax that is valid for all documents, which is further restricted by additional syntax rules depending on the area of ​​application. The agreement with the general syntax is called well-formedness , and that with the additional rules is called validity .

See also


  • Karl-Dieter Bünting, Henning Bergenholtz: Introduction to Syntax. Basic concepts for reading a grammar. (= Athenäums study books. Linguistics. Study book linguistics ). 2nd, revised edition. Athenaeum, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-610-02194-2 .
  • Christa Dürscheid : Syntax. Basics and theories (= UTB. Linguistics 3319). 5th revised edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-3319-8 .
  • Bernhard Engelen: Introduction to the syntax of the German language. 2 volumes (Vol. 1: Preliminary questions and basics. Vol. 2: Sentences and sentence structure plans. ). Pedagogical publisher Burgbücherei Schneider, Baltmannsweiler 1984–1986, ISBN 3-87116-154-3 (vol. 1), ISBN 3-87116-160-8 (vol. 2).
  • Hans-Werner Eroms: Syntax of the German language. W. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2000, ISBN 3-11-015666-0 .
  • Joachim Jacobs, Arnim von Stechow, Wolfgang Sternefeld, Theo Vennemann , Herbert Ernst Wiegand (eds.): Syntax (= handbooks for language and communication science 9, 1–2). 2 volumes. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1993–1995, ISBN 3-11-009586-6 (vol. 1), ISBN 3-11-014263-5 (vol. 2).
  • Robert D. Van Valin, Jr .: An introduction to syntax. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2001, ISBN 0-521-63566-7 .
  • Robert D. Van Valin, Jr., Randy J. LaPolla: Syntax. Structure, meaning and function. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1997, ISBN 0-521-49565-2 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Syntax  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Sentence theory  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Christa Dürscheid: Syntax. Basics and theories (= UTB. Linguistics 3319). 5th revised edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-3319-8 , p. 11.
  2. According to Angelika Linke, Markus Nussbaumer, Paul R. Portmann: Study book Linguistics (= series Germanistische Linguistik. Kollegbuch 121). 5th enlarged edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-484-31121-5 , p. 84: "in a more or less metaphorical expansion of the core meaning."
  3. See dtv-Lexikon / Syntax
  4. ^ Danièle Clément: Basic linguistic knowledge. An introduction for future German teachers (= WV-Studium. Vol. 173 Linguistics ). 2nd Edition. Westdeutscher Verlag, Wiesbaden 2000, ISBN 3-531-23173-1 , p. 44.
  5. Angelika Linke, Markus Nussbaumer, Paul R. Portmann: Study book linguistics (= series Germanistic linguistics. College book 121). 5th enlarged edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-484-31121-5 , p. 84.
  6. Ulrike Pospiech: Syntax. In: Johannes Volmert (Hrsg.): Grundkurs Sprachwissenschaft (= UTB for science. Uni-Taschenbücher. Linguistics 1879). 5th, corrected and supplemented edition. Fink, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-8252-1879-1 , pp. 115–150, here p. 149.
  7. See Helmut Glück (Hrsg.): Metzler-Lexikon Sprache. 3rd, revised edition. JB Metzler Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart et al. 2005, pp. 645 and 651–652.
  8. See syntax. In: Friedrich Kirchner , Carl Michaëlis: Dictionary of philosophical terms (= Philosophical Library 500). Continued by Johannes Hoffmeister . Completely re-edited by Arnim Regenbogen and Uwe Meyer. Meiner, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-7873-1325-7 .
  9. Peter Naur (ed.), Revised Report on the Algorithmic Language Algol 60, published in Numerische Mathematik , Vol.4 (1) (1962), pp.420–453, in Comm. ACM , Vol.6 (1) (1963), pp.1-17, and in Computer Journal , Vol.5 (4) (1963), pp.349-367; PDF