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Syntax vs Semantics

Syntax and semantics are two of the main branches of contemporary linguistics. Linguists study syntax and semantics to understand how valid sentences are created in a given language. However, syntax and semantics involve two rather different types of validity. Syntax vs SemanticsAs a discipline, syntax focuses on how words are combined and arranged to form phrases and sentences. It involves the study of the rules and principles that determine how sentences are structured and constructed in a particular language.

Yet while syntax refers to the grammatical form or structure of a phrase or sentence, semantics refers to the actual meaning of the linguistic expression that is formed when words are combined. Whereas syntax focuses on the grammatical correctness of a sentence, semantics is concerned with how the content of that same sentence is related to meanings beyond the world of language. As such, a major concern for those that study semantics is often with the truth or falsehood of statement in relation to the real world. The differences between syntax and semantics are obvious in the fact that a phrase which is syntactically valid is not necessarily also semantically valid. For instance, while the phrase “fish flush divinely” has a grammatically correct “noun verb adverb” structure and is therefore syntactically valid, it has no logical connection to the real world and is therefore semantically invalid. On the other hand, “fish swim gracefully” may be regarded as both syntactically and semantically valid.

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