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Arrangement of words in sentences, clauses, and phrases, and the study of the formation of sentences and the relationship of their component parts. In English, the main device for showing this relationship is word order; for example, The boy loves his dog follows standard subject-verb-object word order, and switching the order of such a sentence would change the meaning or make the sentence meaningless. Word order is much more flexible in languages such as Latin, in which word endings indicate the case of a noun or adjective; such inflections make it unnecessary to rely on word order to indicate a word's function in the sentence.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on syntax, visit Britannica.com.