Difference between Semantics and Syntax

Key Difference: Semantics and Syntax are two different fields of micros linguistics. Semantics deals with the study of words without any consideration given to their meanings. On the other hand, Syntax is the study which deals with analyzing that how words are combined in order to form grammatical sentences.

Linguistics is the study of language. Broadly, linguistics is divided into branches of General linguistic, micro linguistic and macro linguistic. Syntax and Semantics fall into the category of micro linguistic which is concerned with the internal view of language.

Semantics deals with the study of words with respect to their meaning irrespective of the context. On the other hand, Syntax is the study which deals with analyzing that how words are combined in order to form grammatical sentences. In simple language, syntax is all about what the grammar allows, whereas semantics is what it means.

Theoretically, Semantics primarily consider the meanings of entities like words and sentences. However, it does not account for other associated entities like text/discourse, paragraph, phrase or morpheme. Semantics can also be described as the study of the relation between form and meaning.

Syntax has been derived from the Greek words which mean ‘together’ or ‘arrangement’ and ordering. Syntax deals with the study of formation of sentences describing that how words combine together to form bigger units than words like phrases or sentences. These phrases or sentences are basically proper structured strings.

Structure is very important in making out some sort of sense from a statement. A small structural mistake may make any sentence senseless. It also directly refers to the rules and principles that guide the sentences formation (structure) of any individual language.

In order to understand the structure of the sentence one must be familiar with phrases, modifiers, noun phrase, etc. Syntax tress help in explaining sentence structures.

Thus, semantics and syntax focus on two different issues related to linguistics. Semantics is all about meanings of words and sentences, whereas syntax is about the formation of sentences. In the case of semantics, a sentence in which words are not ordered properly can be interpreted by few people on the basis of their prior knowledge. However, the same sentence is meaningless in terms of syntax, as syntax only deals with linguistically and grammatically correct sentences.

Comparison between Semantics and Syntax:





Semantics is a term which is derived from the Greek word seme meaning sigh. Semantics is another important field related to theoretical linguistics. It is all about studying the meaning of linguistic expressions.

Syntax is a term which is derived from Ancient Greek σύνταξις "arrangement" from σύν syn, "together," and τάξις táxis, "an ordering".  Syntax is the study which deals with analyzing that how words are combined in order to form grammatical sentences.

Related to

Meanings of words and sentences

The structure of words


Describe the relationship between symbol and the things they mean or refer to

Describe the correct word order and inflectional structure in sentences

Main aspect

Relation between form and meaning

Word order

Approach towards meaning of a sentence

Individual’s own interpretation on the basis of previous knowledge

Linguistically and grammatically correct


Image Courtesy: informationthinker.blogspot.in, sheffield.ac.uk

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