Definition of syntax in English:



  • 1The arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.

    ‘the syntax of English’
    • ‘This at least seems true in the limited sense that all human tribes, classes and even professions instinctively create their own vocabularies, phrases and even syntax.’
    • ‘To get facility with Italian as a third language, you would need only to grasp minor changes in word forms and syntax.’
    • ‘It comes as a surprise to most beginners in contemporary mainstream linguistics when they find that, instead, the central component of language is presented as syntax.’
    • ‘The word choice and syntax are mine, the allusions part of my mental framework.’
    • ‘Avoid translating prompts word for word because syntax and common word usage vary widely among languages.’
    • ‘He spent eight years teaching high school Latin, which perhaps explains the purity of his syntax and word choices.’
    • ‘Beneath the surface grinds the invisible machinery of grammar, language, syntax and rhetoric, the gears of making meaning, the hardware of the trade.’
    • ‘What is the point of syntax if we drop word order entirely?’
    • ‘Opting for an unusually loose, appositional syntax which strings together phrases or clauses that come at a phenomenon from different angles, he manages to give a sensuous concreteness to abstract concepts.’
    • ‘The background may not merely enable the reasonable man to choose between the possible meaning of words which are ambiguous but even to conclude that the parties must, for whatever reasons, have used the wrong words or syntax.’
    • ‘Try to imagine a world without language; a world where words, grammar and syntax suddenly become meaningless.’
    • ‘The other thing that they're learning about is syntax, phrase boundaries and clause boundaries.’
    • ‘Of course, this tiny ‘language,’ consisting of one-word sentences, has no syntax.’
    • ‘He divides his students into groups and gives them one semester to create their own language - complete with its own syntax and lexicon.’
    • ‘It appears to be the case that no language has its word order or anything about its syntax determined by facts of pronunciation.’
    • ‘Thus, as we each make meaning out of language, we do far more than compute an interpretation deriving from the interaction of syntax and word meaning.’
    • ‘I suspect that the error is due to the differing difficulty of the syntax of the two sentences.’
    • ‘They worked their way through many features of language, from words to syntax to speech, that they argued show signs of adaptation in humans specifically for language.’
    • ‘Additionally, he is criticized for overuse of complex words and syntax.’
    • ‘The meaning of a word varies when syntax is arranged differently.’
    1. 1.1A set of rules for or an analysis of this.
      ‘generative syntax’
    2. 1.2The branch of linguistics that deals with this.
      • ‘The word is borrowed by analogy from the terminology of linguistic syntax.’
      • ‘The chapters that follow deal with vocabulary, syntax, onomastics, phonology, English grammar and usage and, finally, literary language.’
      • ‘It's too bad that (as far as I know) linguists who study syntax, semantics and pragmatics have not been involved in this enterprise to any significant extent.’


Late 16th century: from French syntaxe, or via late Latin from Greek suntaxis, from sun- together + tassein arrange.