By Geoffrey Finch
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Extra resources for Linguistic Terms and Concepts
Syntagmatic (syntagm). A term which refers to the sequential characteristics of language. When we construct WORDS and SENTENCES we follow a certain order in arranging the individual items. To form the word/pit/, for example, we are obliged to utter the particular PHONEMES in that order; any other order would either make an entirely different word or be nonsense. The phonemes, which in this instance are the constituents of the word, are referred to as syntagms, and the relationships which they enter into with the phonemes on either side are referred to as syntagmatic relations.
Using articulation features to describe speech sounds has a number of advantages. To begin with it's very easy to distinguish between CONSONANT and VOWEL sounds, since consonants characteristically restrict the air flow in some way as a consequence of contact between the speech organs, whereas vowels do not. In addition, it's possible, by combining manner and place of articulation together with VOICE, to give a precise description of each distinctive speech sound. Articulatory phonetics has been particularly powerful in recent years in providing a descriptive framework for speech sounds which can be used by linguists across the discipline.
The term 'rule' has a special sense here: we tend to think of rules as externally imposed constraints which everyone has to obey, like Don't walk on the grass, but linguistic rules are not of this kind. They are internal, as opposed to external, constraints and, as such, unconsciously present in the minds of native speakers. They are better understood as principles by which the language operates. Having said that, however, 'grammar' is a word which is open to a number of different uses and interpretations.
Linguistic Terms and Concepts by Geoffrey Finch