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We think of syntax as the arrangement of words that create or compose a sentence. When looking at arrangement, you can look at the ordering, grouping, and placement of the words in the sentence. Scholars may even look at the complex structure of fragments in certain parts of a sentence. Syntax is usually categorized as a component, or part, of grammar. Some people may use the word syntax in place of grammar; however, the two words do not mean the same thing and cannot be used in place of each other. Syntax is a part of grammar, not grammar itself.
To think about syntax, look at the following two sentences as examples:
- Sentence One: “We will go to the store tomorrow to get pickles.”
- Sentence Two: “Tomorrow, we will go to the store to get pickles.”
If syntax is the focus on arrangement of words in a sentence, the two sentences provide a means to understand this concept. The two sentences contain the exact same amount of words and use the exact same vocabulary. The words have not changed between the two sentences. What we see, instead, between the two sentences is that the words used have been moved around to craft a new sentence. Instead of placing the word “tomorrow” near the second half of the sentence like Sentence One, the second sentence (Sentence Two) places the word “tomorrow” at the very beginning of the sentence.
What would be the purpose of looking at the syntax, the arrangement, of these sentences? Syntax can be very important because how a sentence is arranged may change the meaning or purpose of the sentence. Look again at the two sentences given above. If we compare the arrangement of Sentence One to Sentence Two, we find that Sentence Two gives more stress to the word “tomorrow.” The speaker of Sentence Two finds that fact to be most important. However, the importance of “tomorrow” is not stressed in Sentence One. Syntax can help decipher what is most important to a speaker. In some instances, syntax can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
If the arrangement of words can change meaning, then the syntax becomes extremely important in certain professions and situations. Lawyers must be careful in how they craft contracts, write reports, or talk to judges and juries in a courtroom. Politicians must be careful in how they arrange their speeches in fear that they might say something that carries a meaning they do not intend. Teachers must be careful in how they create assignments for their class so they do not create confusion with the assignment. Perhaps most importantly, scientists must be careful in how arrange words and reports, as an arrangement may invalidate their experiment or results in the scientific community.
Poets often use syntax to give emphasis to a sentence. The syntax in poetry can be different from prose in that poetry relies on rhythm and cadence. Therefore, changing the syntax of a sentence may be to help carry the rhythm of a poem. On the other hand, syntax may break the rhythm to stress an idea or create a jarring effect for the reader. Syntax in poetry couples with rhythm, and it is important for the reader to decipher what the poet is doing with syntax to discover its emphasis or meaning.
The following paired sentences give examples of how syntax can change meaning of a sentence or change the emphasis in a sentence:
- Sentence One: Your bedroom is never clean
- Sentence Two: Clean your bedroom never is.
The syntax in Sentence Two puts stress on the cleanliness of the room.
- Sentence One: I had my laundry cleaned.
- Sentence Two: I had cleaned my laundry.
The syntax changes the meaning of this sentence. In Sentence One, there is an implication that someone else did the landry. In Sentence Two, the speaker did the laundry.
This bundle contains 5 ready-to-use syntax worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of what syntax is and how it can be used. You can use these syntax worksheets in the classroom with students, or with home schooled children as well.
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Link will appear as Syntax Examples and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 17, 2017
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