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(also called syntagmatic plane), one of two aspects of the study of language, as contrasted to paradigmatics. Syntagmatics studies linguistic units in their syntagmatic relations, which link such units within an utterance.
The contrast between syntagmatics and paradigmatics reflects the contrast between two forms of the existence (function) of linguistic units: in a system (language) and in a text (speech). In syntagmatics the units of a language are not regarded as equal and interchangeable but as determined by their position. In paradigmatics, the relationship between any two elements is one of the opposition of linguistic units in their associative bonds, whereas in syntagmatics such a relationship is one of the contrast of linguistic units in their linear bonds. The distinguishability of units in paradigmatics is absolute, whereas in syntagmatics it is relative: in syntagmatics the units are distinct in some positions and partially or wholly converge in others.
In syntagmatics, the linguistic units of both the expression plane and the content plane are studied. In contrast to the positional order of formal units, the order of semantic units is determined by context. The concepts of position and context are basic in the theory of syntagmatics. The term “syntagmatics” is sometimes used in a narrower sense to refer to a division of syntax that is concerned with word groups (syntagms in a narrow sense).
V. A. VINOGRADOV