an opposing relationship of several elements of language involving a choice of one of a number of mutually exclusive elements. The language units are thus joined in a speaker’s consciousness despite the impossibility of the units’ actually being joined in a speech event. The either-or function of a paradigmatic relationship is opposed to the both-and function of a syntagmatic relationship, in which elements of language coexist when they are realized in a speech event. Parádigmatic relationships are nonlinear and nonsimultaneous. A form’s syntagmatic characteristics are apparently dependent on its paradigmatic properties.
Paradigmatic relationships were first described by F. de Saussure, who termed them associative relationships, in opposition to syntagmatic relationships.