What is Syntax

What is Syntax

If you are curious about what syntax means and what role it plays in the formation of language structure, this article will certainly be an insightful read.
Programming language syntax
Countless times, you might have heard about the usage of right 'syntax' in literature and programming languages, which might have made you wonder what it's all about. It is a concept that is deeply related to the structure of any language, which includes spoken language, as well as the computer languages.

A language is a means to convey thoughts and emotions. We describe and analyze the world around us through words. However, just words don't make a language. Every one of the spoken languages on Earth, including the English language, is spoken in the form of sentences, which are strings of words put together to create a meaningful description of reality. Nobody knows exactly how languages were created, but as they became more widespread, there was a need to bring a uniformity to them, which was achieved through the setting up of a common syntax.

In Literature

Syntax is a set of universally accepted principles that act as guidelines in the formation of sentences, from words in any language. To know how to put all types of words (a.k.a eight parts of speech) together to make a meaningful sentence, which provides an accurate causal description of the world, is to learn syntax. In short, it is another word for 'grammar', but it deals with the structure of language at a more fundamental level.

If you are familiar with the basic rules of English grammar and composition, you are already familiar with the syntax of the language. Most of the languages follow a syntax where every sentence has an order, akin to 'subject-verb-object'. It deals with the definition of types of words, as well as the sequence of arranging the words in an order.

It includes the modification of words, in accordance with tenses (present, past, or future), quantity (singular or plural) and context, to form sentences. Thus, it is an all-inclusive type of grammar for any language, which must be learned, in order to speak and write it correctly. Examples are sentence construction rules in all the major languages.

In poetry, it is a bit different from prose. Here, the rules of sentence formation are generally relaxed, as part of the 'Poetic License'. However, it follows all the syntax rules which are related to parts of speech. What is more important in poetry is 'meter', which provides an inherent rhythm to its composition.

In Programming Languages

In principle, the concepts of the syntax of a spoken language and that of a computer programming language are similar, but the latter is a lot more strictly applied set of rules. Programming languages are used to write programs for solutions of problems, which are then converted into a machine readable form by programs called compilers or interpreters. So, the syntax of a programming language includes rules on specification of all data variables, all the operations carried out on variables, and a lot more.

For example, in C programming language, you have specific rules on how data variables are declared, how 'For Loops' are written and how arrays, as well as pointers are used. Syntax error in programming is an error reported by a compiler, when it encounters a line of code, which doesn't conform with standard rules of specification.

In simple words, syntax could be understood as 'Grammar' of any language. However, it deals with the structuring of sentences and other such language constructs at a more deeper level. In case of programming languages, the right syntax is essential, for your code to be compiled or interpreted and executed. In both cases, it brings order to language and forms the basis of grammar.