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the part of semiotics that studies the syntactic, that is, purely structural, properties of a sign system without relation to any interpretations of the signs (the subject of semantics) or possible interpreters (the subject of pragmatics). Inasmuch as there are serious grounds for characterizing semiotics not as a science, in the commonly accepted sense of the word, but as a certain approach to the description of a different type of “sign situation” and the resolution of related problems, it makes sense to speak of syntactics as a purely “formal,” structural aspect of such a semiotic approach.
An example of the syntactic characteristics of a calculus is the group of rules for generating formulas in the calculus; the rules give the criteria for distinguishing the formulas from those expressions that are composed of symbols of the alphabet of the given calculus but that are not formulas of the calculus. The syntax and morphology of the grammars of natural languages are concerned primarily with questions of syntactics in the sense discussed here. Syntactic laws are of special importance in the formalized languages of mathematical logic and mathematics. It is precisely within the bounds of logical and mathematical research that ideas, methods, and results have arisen that can be termed the subject of syntactics. The syntactic aspect of research has also been extremely fruitful when applied to natural languages—both dead languages (as in the deciphering of ancient writing) and living languages (as in machine translation). (See alsoLINGUISTIC MODELS.)