Author Topic: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax  (Read 4329 times)

Offline mallu

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Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« on: January 25, 2014, 11:40:12 AM »
Here is a part of sentence  of which the grammatical correctness I doubt

----Comparing the Syntaxes of English and French--- or if  -- comparing the Syntax of English and French?
Can you tell me if it is right?
« Last Edit: January 25, 2014, 11:51:05 AM by mallu »

Offline freknu

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2014, 11:55:54 AM »
cf. (1) "comparing the foods of A and B" (2) "comparing the food of A and B."

In case (1) we are explicitly comparing distinct classes or preparations of food (meals), while in case (2) we are comparing food (cuisine) as a whole. Thus I would say that they are equally valid, but may have slight contrast in meaning.

Offline mallu

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2014, 12:01:16 PM »
Can you make it a little clearer.?Unlike food English( & french) has only one Syntax. Then---

Offline freknu

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2014, 12:04:46 PM »
Sure, you usually discuss syntax as a whole, but you can also have subsets or specific cases of syntax which would be "syntaxes".

Syntax is synonymous with "sentence structure". Can you have plural "sentence structures"? Yes, you can. Thus also "syntaxes".

Offline lx

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2014, 01:47:57 PM »
It's like this:

Can you tell me the answer to A and B?
Can you tell me the answers to A and B?

You can think of the first one like:

Can you tell me the answer to A and [the answer to] B? (Ellipsis)
Can you tell me the answers to A and B?

Both forms are available, because in the plural you are referencing two answers and there is no implied elliptical part. I personally think syntax in the singular is much more common for things like syntax, which would (I think) be analysed as ellipsis. Nevertheless, people will sometimes use the plural, which is also fine. I'm pretty sure when discussing whatever type of (plural) sets of syntax(es), I would always use the singular.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2014, 03:10:02 PM »
The general answer was covered above: both are possible, both may have slightly different uses, but they're effectively interchangable. (The only one that is required is the singular if two owners share a single thing-- the "relationship between English and French" for example.)

But in this case of "syntax", it's very hard to me to imagine a plural usage of that word. It is, I think, a mass noun, like "knowledge".
???The knowledges of the man and the woman.
?The syntaxes of English and French.

More than that, I just don't know what the form would be. According to several results online it is indeed "syntaxes", but that looks weird to me!

In this specific case, I am also positive I have seen that exact construction (syntax of X and Y) used in published work, so I'm sure that's fine.
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Offline mallu

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2014, 06:37:32 AM »
But what if the sentence is like this?
"A comparative study of the syntaxes of a pair of languages ----"
can this be substituted by
" A comparative study of the syntaxof a pair of languages -----"

Offline lx

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2014, 06:44:29 AM »
It can, but it's unusual. The problem here is "of a pair of languages." It makes it seem as if by being in a pair, they are of the same sort of category. If you changed it to "a few" or "a group of" then you can get rid of the weirdness:

A comparative study of the syntax of a group of languages.

And no, I wouldn't say syntax being singular has anything to do with the singular nature of group.

Offline freknu

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2014, 06:44:29 AM »
I would say both are still valid, although the singular would probably be more prevalent.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Comparing Syntaxes or Syntax
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2014, 10:27:49 AM »
Quote
But what if the sentence is like this?
"A comparative study of the syntaxes of a pair of languages ----"
can this be substituted by
" A comparative study of the syntaxof a pair of languages -----"
I told you above: grammatically in terms of the plural usage either could work.
But with the specific word "syntax(es)" I absolutely reject the plural usage. It screams "non-native usage!" or "weird linguistics terminology!"
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