03/05/2014 (press release: picassosweb) // Dallas, Texas, USA // Andrew Harris McElroy
Lately, I have had many students and colleagues around the Dallas area ask me, “Andrew Harris McElroy, what exactly is syntaxology? Is that even a word, or did you just make it up?” Of course, I always welcome an invitation to explain my thoughts on the subject.
One of the most fascinating aspects of any language is its dynamic fluidity. Languages are never stagnant; rules, meanings, and usage are constantly evolving and changing.
The terms “syntax” and “linguistics” often arise during any intellectual discussion of language examination. While “linguistics” refers to the scientific examination of a language and its structure, “syntax” refers to the arrangement of words in a manner that creates meaning.
After a quick glance at these aforementioned terms and their definitions, it is easy to determine that syntax falls under the category of linguistics. However, what I find most interesting is what I like to refer to as “syntaxology.”
As any novice linguist knows, there are two main types of linguistics. There is prescriptive linguistics (which focuses on enforcing traditional rules of language) and there is descriptive linguistics (which focuses on observing and describing how a language is used by its speakers). Syntaxology refers to the descriptive linguistic aspect of the study of the arrangement of words in a language.
As languages are constantly adapting to new generations’ use, acceptable syntax progresses along with the rest of the language. Syntaxology can be examined in relation to its current linguistic status; however, linguists can also examine syntaxology in relation to the evolution of syntax over time.
As far as anyone questioning whether or not the term, “syntaxology,” is really a word or if I just made it up, I simply say that at one point or another, all words are “made up.” The English language consists of hundreds of thousands of words, and more and more words make their way into existence every single day.
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