- Definition of syntax
Based on the experts, Syntax is a central component of human language. Language has often been characterized as a systematic correlation between certain types of gestures and meaning. It is not the case that every possible meaning that can be expressed is correlated with a unique, unanalyzable gesture, be it oral or manual. Rather, each language has stock of meaning-bearing elements and different ways of combining them to express different meaning, and these ways of combining them are themselves meaningful.(Robert and Valin, 2001). Syntax can thus be given the following characterization, taken from Matthews (1982:1) the term ‘syntax’ is from the Ancient Greek syntaxis, a verbal noun which literally means ‘arrangement’ or ‘setting out together’. Traditionally, it refers to the branch of grammar dealing with the ways in which words, with or without appropriate inflections, are arranged to show connections of meaning within the sentence. Similar to the explanation of Matthew, Robert and Van Valin (2001) expresses the essence of itself as the following syntax: “First and foremost, syntax deals with how sentences are constructed, and users of human language employ a striking variety of possible arrangements of the element in sentences”.
Syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages. Syntactic investigation of a given language has as its goal the construction of a grammar that can be viewed as a device of some sort for producing the sentences of the language under analysis. (Chomsky, 2002)
The study of syntax is the study of how words combine to from phrases and ultimately sentences in languages. Because it consists of phrases that are put together in a particular way, a sentences has a structure. The structure consists of way in which the words are organized into phrases and the phrases are organized into larger phrases. The study of phrases and sentences structure is sometimes called grammar. (Tserdanelis and Wong, 2004)
The syntax of a language is the set of properties which determine the construction of sentences in that language. If a sentence is constructed according to those properties it is well formed or grammatical. If a sentence is constructed in violation of those properties it is ill-formed or ungrammatical. The study of syntax involves uncovering those properties of language which are involved in the construction of grammatical sentence in particular languages. (Hawkins, 2001)
Syntax is the system of rules and categories that allows words to be combined to the form of sentence. The data that linguists use to study syntax consists primarily of judgments about grammaticality of individual sentence. Roughly speaking, a sentence is considered grammatical if speakers judge it to be a possible sentence of their language. (O’grady, at all.,1989)
Syntax is that part of our linguistics knowledge which concerns the structure of sentences. Knowing a language also means being able to put words together to form sentences to express our thoughts. (Fromkin and Rodman,1983)
From the experts’ explanation above we can conclude that syntax is the study of internal structure of sentences. In this case, it explains how words are arranged become phrases and clauses for constructing sentence. It is commonly we call structure. Structure manages how words can be combined with another for creating good sentence.
- Basic idea of syntax
1. Word ordering and meaning
The order of words in a sentences or phrases is connected to its literal meaning. The basic underlying word order in an English sentence is subject-verb-object (S-V-O). (Murcia and Freeman,1999). Consider the English sentences :
a. Joe writes poetry
The factors determines the meaning of sentences: (1) the selection of words plays a role in determining the literal meaning of the sentences, (2) the orders of words play a role the literal meaning of the sentences. (Tserdanelis and Wong, 2004). See the two examples:
a. The mat is on the cat
b. The cat is on the mat
As we have studied before, there is factor determining what a sentence means. Consider the following examples:
a. Can you tell me the time?
b. We had the president for dinner.
c. We need more intelligent administrators.
d. Pat shot the soldier with a telescope.
All three sentences are ambiguous-that is, they have more than one meaning. The first sentences is ambiguous because it can be used either as a straightforward question (“ are you able to tell me the time?”) . we call this pragmatic ambiguity. The second sentence is ambiguous because the expression have for dinner can mean either “ host for dinner” or “ have for dinner”. This type of ambiguity is called lexical ambiguity. The third sentence , this sentence also has two meaning. On one meaning, we need administrators who are more intelligent. On the other meaning, we need a grater number of intelligent administrators. The type of ambiguity is called structure ambiguity. (Tserdanelis and Wong, 2004)
- Phrase Structure
a. Lexical categories
In English the main categories are Nouns(N), Verb(V), Adjectives(A), Prepositions(P), and Adverbs(Adv).
b. Phrasal categories
The phrasal categories are built up from the lexical categories (their head) in the ways that we have already illustrated. The phrasal categories are NP(noun phrases), VP(verb phrases), AP(adjective phrases), PP(preposisition phrases) , AdvP(adverb phrase). (Tserdanelis and Wong, 2004)
a. Noun phrases is any phrase which can act as a complete subject, object, etc. in a sentence; e.q. “The big red block”, “ Most of the three coaches”.
b. Verb phrases is basically a verb plus its complement (s); e.g. “ gave the parcel to the clerk”
c. Prepositional phrases may be required (for instance, by a verb that it comes after) to contain a particular preposition.
d. Adjective phrases usually consist of single adjectives, but it is possible for these to be accompanied by an indication of degree ad some number of adverb as modifier, as in “very commonly used”.
Chomsky, N. (1957 & 2002). Syntactic Structures. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmBH.
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman. (1983). An Introduction to Language. New York: CBS college publising.
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams. (2007). An introduction to Language. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth.
Hawkins, R. (2001). Second Language Syntax: A Generative Introduction. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers .
Murcia,M.C and Diane Larsen Freeman. (1999). The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL teacher's course. Boston: Internasional Thomson Publising.
O''grady,William,Michael Dobrovolsky,Mark Aronoff. (1989). Contemporary Linguistics An introduction. New York: Martin's Press.
Robert, D. and Van Valin,J.R. (2001). An Introdution to Linguistic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tserdanelis,G. and Wai Yi Peggy Wong. (Eds.). (2004). Language File: Material for an Introduction to Language & Linguistics (9th ed.). Columbus: Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University Press.