The word syntax comes from the Latin term syntaxis , which in turn derives from a Greek word that is translated into Spanish as “coordinate . ” This is the branch of grammar that offers guidelines created to know how to join and match words in order to make sentences and express concepts in a coherent way . In computer science , syntax is understood as the group of rules that mark the correct sequences of the elements of a programming language.


As a sub discipline framed in the field of linguistics , the syntax focuses on the study of the precepts that govern the combination of constituents and the emergence of units superior to these , as is the case with phrases and sentences.

Specifically, specialists in this area clearly state that the main function of syntax is to study this combination of words as well as the position in which they are located within a given sentence. That is, she informs us of the specific order that those in a sentence must have in order for it to be correctly carried out.

Thus, for example, one of the most important rules established by this linguistic discipline that concerns us within Spanish is that any preposition must always go before a complement, regardless of the type.

As regards the combination of words, one of the golden rules that this syntax establishes in Spanish is that they must coincide both in gender and in number. That means we have to say, for example, dogs or cats and not dogs or cats.

A rule that is also extrapolated to what verbal forms are. Specifically, and since they do not have gender, they must match in number. A clear example of this is the following phrase: “The little ones left school”. In this case it looks like the subject and the mentioned verb coincide in the number. What would be incorrect is to write “The children left school”.

According to the philologist and linguist American – born Leonard Bloomfield ( 1887 – 1949 ), the syntax is characterized by studying free form shaped entirely by free forms. This notion is described as structuralist .

The smallest ways in which a broader structure can be analyzed are its syntactic constituents , a word or a sequence of terms that works together as a unit integrated into the hierarchical structure of the sentence.

The current paradigm of science refers to generative grammar, which emphasizes the approach to syntax as a primitive and fundamental constituent of the natural language .

On the other hand, it should be noted that the syntactic analysis of a structure implies the identification of the conjugated verb within the sentence, to distinguish between the subject phrase and the predicate phrase . For this, once the verb is recognized, it is asked who performs that action. The answer constitutes the subject, while the rest is the predicate.

Throughout history there have been many important linguists who have left their deep imprint in the field of syntax. This would be the case, for example, of the Englishman Michael Alexander Halliday who carried out various works on that and its communicative function.

Syntax is the part of grammar that studies the way in which words are combined and related to form larger sequences such as phrases and sentences, as well as the role they play within them.

The word syntax comes from the Latin syntaxis, and this in turn from the Greek σύνταξις , and means ʽorder ʼ, ‘coordinate’.

Some words that can be used as a synonym are: construction, organization, connection, meeting.

Through the syntax, it is studied how the types of sentences are constructed according to the order and the way in which the words within a sentence or the sentences are related in order to express the content of a speech or concept in a clear and coherent way.

The main function of the syntax is to analyze the correct order of the words so that the phrases, sentences, texts and ideas are expressed correctly so that the message to be transmitted can arrive.

Therefore, syntax is a study that is carried out in all languages ​​in order to study the correct order of words and define the grammatical rules that must be followed so that people can express their ideas.

On the other hand, in the field of computing, syntax refers to the set of rules that establish how the symbols that make up the programming language or executable instruction of the computer should be arranged.

Syntax Examples

As an example you can perform the parsing of the following sentence, “The dog eats a steak.”

In this sentence two fundamental parts are distinguished: the noun phrase subject ‘The dog’, and the predicate phrase ‘eat a steak’.

In the first part, a determinant appears that is the article ‘the’ that agrees in gender and number with the nucleus of the noun phrase , ‘dog’. This is a very important rule in grammar, the article must always coincide in gender and number with the noun or complement that follows.

The nucleus is the verb ‘eat’, which is conjugated in the present indicative, in the third person singular, in consonance with the subject of the sentence.

Within this phrase, there is also the direct complement ‘a steak’. It is composed of an indeterminate article ‘a’ and a name ‘fillet’, both in masculine and singular form.

If there were no set of grammatical norms that conformed the syntax, it would have been impossible to analyze the previous sentence because the order of its words would be incorrect. For example, ʽThe steak a dog eatsʼ.

what is syntax for?

The answer is as simple as it is complex to apply. Syntax serves to speak and write correctly . Those people who are able to master the basic principles of Syntax are those who will tend to express themselves and write with greater correctness and ownership. What is more important for a language teacher than his students express themselves and write correctly?

But the problem of the Syntax comes in the form in which it has been raised from the beginning. As the Syntax is focused on textbooks, manuals … it is something completely removed from reality, it is something abstract and that gives students the feeling that it is useless. There are many language teachers who love to explain syntax in their classrooms, they are passionate in part because they are relatively comfortable classes. You arrive, write ten sentences on the board and give them some time to analyze them and finally correct them with them. But has it helped? Have most of your students followed you?

The truth is that in recent years what I have learned is how NOT to teach syntax. The model that I learned in the institute and in the faculty is an obsolete model and totally removed from the particular interests of the students.

What aspects should the student master before starting syntax?

Before giving some performances that I carry out in my classes to teach Syntax, go ahead my thanks to all Primary teachers for the enormous effort to teach Syntax at such early ages. The truth is that it is appreciated all the work done by these professionals when their students arrive at secondary schools.

  • 1st GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIES . Syntax cannot be taught if students do not previously master Grammar Categories .
  • 2nd MORPHOSINTAXIS . The syntactic analysis must always be preceded by a morphological analysis. Hence, I prefer to talk about Morphosyntaxis instead of Syntax.
  • 3rd SYMPTOMS. Once the Grammatical Categories dominate, the five types of Syntagms must be taught : Nominal, Verbal, Prepositional, Adjective and Adverbial.
  • 4th CORES . Once you know the Syntagmas, you have to teach them to find the Core of these Syntagmas.
  • 5th SYNTHETIC FUNCTIONS . When the student feels safe with the Grammatical Categories, he knows how to distinguish the Syntagmas and find the Core, it is time to teach the Syntactic Functions.

You see that the process is long and should be scheduled and staggered. Sometimes we make the mistake of wanting to teach the Syntactic Functions without having previously consolidated the Grammatical Categories, Syntagmas and Nuclei.

How do I teach syntax to my students?

Before explaining some tricks that I use to teach Syntax, I want to make it clear that today I have not yet found a method that makes me feel completely satisfied. So I think I still have a long way to go, but to travel it you have to take the first steps.

  • When conducting the morphosyntactic analysis of a sentence, students know that they must necessarily follow five steps:
    1. Recognize the Grammar Category of the word. I write a box below each word because they often forget to write the Grammar Category easily. Students see the box and know that they must write in the Grammar Category.
    2. Mark the words that make up the Syntagma with a line.
    3. Search the Syntagma Core.
    4. Say what type of Syntagma is according to its Core.
    5. Flag the Syntagma Syntactic Function.

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