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(LINGUISTICS) any combination of words in a ‘chain of speech’. see SYNTAGMATIC AND PARADIGMATIC.



in a broad sense, any sequence of linguistic elements linked by the relationship of dependent member to governing member. This is F. de Saussure’s concept of syntagm.

A syntagm may be a sequence of words (external syntagm) or a sequence of morphemes (internal syntagm). For example, dom-ik forms an internal syntagm in which the element dom- (“house”) is the dependent member and ik (diminutive suffix) the governing member. This syntagm corresponds to the external syntagm malen’kii dom, in which dom is dependent and malen’kii (“small”) is governing.

In a narrower sense, a syntagm is a phrase within a sentence; it may be predicative, attributive, or objective. In this same sense, the sentence is a chain of consecutive syntagms. L. V. Shcherba defined a syntagm as an articulated phonetic unit organized by intonation, expressing a single meaningful whole, and consisting of one or several rhythmic groups. A sentence may be divided into syntagms in various ways, depending on shades of meaning, logical emphasis, or syntactic homonymy. An example is vchera/bylo zharko as contrasted to vchera bylo/zharko (“yesterday/it was hot”—”yesterday it was/hot”).


Kartsevskii. S. O. Povtoritel’nyi kurs russkogo iazyka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Saussure, F. de. Kurs obshchei lingvistiki. Moscow, 1933. (Translated from French.)
Vinogradov, V. V. Poniatie sintagmy v sintaksise russkogo iazyka. In the collection Voprosy sintaksisa sovremennogo russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1950.
Bally, C. Obshchaia lingvistika i voprosy frantsuzskogo iazyka. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from French.)
Shcherba, L. V. Fonetika frantsuzskogo iazyka, 7th ed. Moscow, 1963.


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