Syntax, Sentence Knowledge and the School-Age Student.
Syntax: Syntactical rules are a specific system that shape the
structure of sentences.
Syntactical rules indicate the word order and organisation of sentences.
The rules of sentence structure determine which word combinations are allowed, and which word
combinations are not allowed.
Sentences are organised dependent on their specific function.
For instance, interrogatives ask questions, such as, 'Do you want a sandwich?' whereas declaratives make a statement, 'We stand and fight here!'
Each sentence must have the basic building blocks of syntax: a noun phrase and a verb phrase.
- Noun phrase: a noun phrase is a noun that is accompanied by modifiers. So for example, the
noun phrase, 'the hill,' an adjective modifier may be, 'the green hill,' demonstrative, 'that hill,'
possessive, 'my hill,' or prepositional, 'on the hill.'
- Verb phrase: a verb phrase is a phrase that is headed by a verb. A verb phase is often
accompanied by auxilary verbs. For example, 'I kicked the football' is a noun phrase
without an auxiliary verb, whereas, 'I am kicking the football,' is a verb phrase with an
Even very short sentences have both a noun phrase and a verb phrase. As long as a sentence contains both it will satisfy syntactical rules.
For instance, the sentence 'Sue laughed'
has both a noun and verb phrase,
so is a grammatically correct sentence.
Let's contrast that simple sentence with this:
'The secret society of the filibuster league of gentlemen, on which basis only the outrageous
manner of their covert and most unusual handshake is under investigation.'
The league of gentlemen...er sentence, is not a true sentence. If you read the sentence closely
you will notice that it has no verb phrase.
In any noun phrase, different word classes may be added until it even takes on the form of the outrageous
example above, but so long as it is accompanied by a verb phrase it will always be a true sentence. However if a piece of writing, like the example above, doesn't have a verb phrase it is not a sentence.
There are four
main sentence types. Sentences can often be categorized by the number of clauses
Contains a single main
Contains two main
clauses, which are linked by a coordinating conjunction.
Contains a main
clause, and also one or more subordinating
The most complex of all sentences. Contains two or more main
clauses and one or more subordinate
Andrews, R. Torgerson, C. Beverton, S. Freeman, A., Locke, T., Law, G., (2006) The effect of grammar teaching on writing
development. British Educational Research Journal, 32, 39-55
Merrick, D. (2009) Blake's Grammar Guide for Primary Students. Pascal Press
Scott, C.M. (2009) A Case for the Sentence in Reading Comprehension. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools Vol
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