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geonuc
2008-Nov-04, 07:13 PM
What's the difference between grammar and syntax? Does the meaning of the two words overlap?

tdvance
2008-Nov-04, 07:24 PM
There is likely some overlap. When I think of a "grammar", I think of a system of "production rules" (yeah, from my computer programming, of course, but applies fuzzily to English, etc. as well)--

a sentence is either: noun phrase + verb phrase
or noun phrase + verb phrase + object phrase
or sentence + conjunction + another sentence
or ... (one of lots and lots of other combinations)

then, a noun phrase is a noun, or adjective + noun, or ...(again lots of other combinations)

I assume somebody somewhere has codified the entire grammar of the English language, and I'm sure it's huge and complex.

Syntax, however I tend to see as being related to a "specific" sentence. the syntax of a sentence could be thought of as a graph or diagram showing how it is parsed under the grammar rules--e.g. take a sentence, label all the nouns, verbs, etc., label which adjective modifies which noun, etc. So, syntax is the structure of a sentence (or paragraph or book, if you want to generalize it some--though it's a bit more fuzzy with the bigger structures). Grammar is the rules that the structure must follow (and "Time flies like an arrow." is an example with several different syntactical interpretations, all of them valid under English Grammar).

This of course is based on how I read/use the words more than how, say, Noah Webster did.

Swift
2008-Nov-04, 08:40 PM
This looks like a job for Gillianren!
To the Grammarmobile!

:D

nauthiz
2008-Nov-04, 09:33 PM
Syntax is a subset of grammar. It's the basic structure of how meaningful sentences go together in a language.

For example, the English language has a very rigid syntax where the correct ordering of words in a sentence is very important. For example, "I eat cookies" a valid sentence, but "Eat I cookies" is not because the language does not have a syntactic rule for [verb]-[subjective pronoun]-[noun]. In Latin, on the other hand, I believe you could get away with a sentence that follows that form because words take different forms to indicate their function within the sentence so word ordering does not need to convey as much meaning.

Grammar, on the other hand, includes syntax as well as includes morphology (modifications of words) and semantics (meanings of words), and probably some more esoteric concepts that only linguists care about.

Verb conjugation is an example of morphology: "I eat cookies" and "I ate cookies" are syntactically equivalent, but have different meanings because of the differing forms of the verb 'to eat'.

A classic illustration of semantics (a simplified form of it, anyway) is the sentence "Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." There are a number of possible meanings for buffalo, but the sentence only makes sense if we assign the correct ones to each instance of the word: Buffalo [city] buffalo [animal] buffalo [intimidate] Buffalo [city] buffalo [animal].

geonuc
2008-Nov-04, 09:39 PM
What's the difference between grammar and syntax? Does the meaning of the two words overlap?
I'm already smarter, thanks to td and naut, but before Gillian shows up, I'd better correct that second sentence of mine.

I should have asked:

Do the meanings of the two words overlap?

Whew - glad I noticed that. :D

mahesh
2008-Nov-04, 10:26 PM
....
A classic illustration of semantics (a simplified form of it, anyway) is the sentence "Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." There are a number of possible meanings for buffalo, but the sentence only makes sense if we assign the correct ones to each instance of the word: Buffalo [city] buffalo [animal] buffalo [intimidate] Buffalo [city] buffalo [animal].

...and one more from Groucho!

reminds me of Groucho, at one of his television programmes, but i heard a history broadcast on radio...so it was aaaaaa riot!
You Bet Your Life...no wait...

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=7T-OkqqyfkU.

gee i'm glad i bumped into this. you tube is something, hanh! i hardly venture there. this one is a hoot. i suppose all Groucho stuff is. they are talking about Buffalo too! (and engineers! careful!)
shucks, takes me to another world! i kid you not.

so anyway, this broadcast, was about this australian chap on Groucho's programme and they were talking about washing...hands and basins.....and the guy says to Groucho, yes i washed my hands in a basin (pronounces it baison (bison)). his accent was cute. Groucho, as usual, leading conversation his inimitable way, gets him to repeat 'bison' / washing etc..a few times...then Groucho comes up with .."yes, I washed my hands, once, in Buffalo!". Such subtility!

i also haven't appreciated i can find marx brothers / Groucho so easily on you tube!
how quaint is that? the ease i mean!

ok sorry geo...back to you guys...

edit: thanks naut.., tod...for your descriptive explanations.

mahesh
2008-Nov-04, 10:33 PM
I'm already smarter, thanks to td and naut, but before Gillian shows up, I'd better correct that second sentence of mine.

I should have asked:

Do the meanings of the two words overlap?

Whew - glad I noticed that. :D
what's wrong with your original usage?
i can't see anything wrong!

geonuc
2008-Nov-04, 10:44 PM
what's wrong with your original usage?
i can't see anything wrong!
There are two meanings: one for grammar, one for syntax. Therefore, "Does the meaning ..." is incorrect.

geonuc
2008-Nov-04, 10:47 PM
ok sorry geo...back to you guys...

edit: thanks naut.., tod...for your descriptive explanations.
Not at all. Marxian humor is always appreciated. :)

mugaliens
2008-Nov-05, 12:57 AM
This looks like a job for Gillianren!
To the Grammarmobile!

:D

If you keep spelling it right, it'll never set off her radar. You have to spell it like "grammer" before she'll respond.

Gillianren
2008-Nov-05, 01:33 AM
Sorry--off having a life. (Well, listening to NPR/watching the news.)

Grammar and syntax do, indeed, cover a lot of the same territory, but syntax is, indeed, how words go together while grammar covers more territory. (Incidentally, "Ate I cookies" becomes a sentence, albeit an archaic one, with the addition of a question mark.)

SeanF
2008-Nov-05, 02:32 AM
A classic illustration of semantics (a simplified form of it, anyway) is the sentence "Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo." There are a number of possible meanings for buffalo, but the sentence only makes sense if we assign the correct ones to each instance of the word: Buffalo [city] buffalo [animal] buffalo [intimidate] Buffalo [city] buffalo [animal].
You think too small.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
[City] [animal] [city] [animal] [intimidate] [intimidate] [city] [animal].

:)

Jens
2008-Nov-05, 06:44 AM
Syntax is a subset of grammar. It's the basic structure of how meaningful sentences go together in a language.


I'm not certain about this. But I think that "syntax" is a proper linguistics term, that means how words are ordered. So some languages put adjectives before nouns, others after nouns, others (like Spanish) sometimes before, sometimes after. That's syntax.

I'm not certain that "grammar" is a real linguistics term. It may be more a word used in education. So I guess it's meant to be something more general, but it's somewhat imprecise.

Interestingly, the English word "grammar" is etymologically related to "glamour".

mahesh
2008-Nov-05, 06:47 AM
this could be messy:

Does the doctor doctor the doctor, the way doctor doctors doctors?
or does the doctor doctor the doctor, the way other doctors doctor doctors? (or even Doctor doctor, could i add?)

edit: and oh yes, unglamourous!

hhEb09'1
2008-Nov-05, 08:28 AM
Sorry--off having a life. (Well, listening to NPR/watching the news.)

Grammar and syntax do, indeed, cover a lot of the same territory, but syntax is, indeed, how words together while grammar covers more territory. Aha!
(Incidentally, "Ate I cookies" becomes a sentence, albeit an archaic one, with the addition of a question mark.)Or a few commas :)

LotusExcelle
2008-Nov-05, 12:43 PM
LOAD "jumpman", 8, 1

tdvance
2008-Nov-05, 05:03 PM
I'm not certain about this. But I think that "syntax" is a proper linguistics term, that means how words are ordered. So some languages put adjectives before nouns, others after nouns, others (like Spanish) sometimes before, sometimes after. That's syntax.

I'm not certain that "grammar" is a real linguistics term. It may be more a word used in education. So I guess it's meant to be something more general, but it's somewhat imprecise.

Interestingly, the English word "grammar" is etymologically related to "glamour".

Noam Chomsky talks about grammars, and he's a linguist, so...well, it means I'd guess it's a linguistics term.

Gillianren
2008-Nov-05, 05:13 PM
Aha!

Thank you.

Disinfo Agent
2008-Nov-05, 06:09 PM
"Syntax" is the part of linguistics that studies how words combine in a sentence or phrase. A simplistic description is that syntax studies "word order".

"Grammar" is a broader, and nowadays a bit old-fashioned/lay term for the study/description of how language works. When professional linguists like Noam Chomsky speak of "grammar", they're using the term in a modern, highly technical sense. But basically you can think of it as the set of rules a language obeys.

The two terms are also used in other fields, like computer science, with similar meanings.

nauthiz
2008-Nov-05, 06:10 PM
Noam Chomsky talks about grammars, and he's a linguist, so...well, it means I'd guess it's a linguistics term.

Yup. A very large portion of the work in theoretical linguistics since Chomsky has related to generative grammar, which is a central concept in the field nowadays.

Swift
2008-Nov-05, 07:32 PM
We have a syntax in Cleveland, to pay for the sports stadiums they built. Its a sales tax on things like liquor and cigarettes. :whistle:

Oh wait, that has an "i", not a "y" and a space. Nevermind. :shifty:

jfribrg
2008-Nov-06, 12:28 AM
I always thought of syntax and grammar as sort of answering the same question from two perspectives. If you have a sentence and want to know if it is "legal" in a certain language, then you are dealing with syntax. If you have a bunch of rules for how sentences are formed in the language, then you are dealing with grammar. The last part is semantics, which deals with assigning a meaning to a "legal" sentence.