Mrs. Opaleski-DiMeo – AP Language
AP English Language and Composition
What is syntax?
The term syntax refers not only to the structure of sentences, their types, their uses, their
connection, and the variations authors choose, but also to smaller structures within
sentences. Phrases (any group of words) and clauses (groups of words that contain a
subject and a verb) are also syntactic elements that require a reader’s attention.
Syntax affects the pace of a piece.
· Short, clipped phrases, sentences and clauses tend to create a feeling of quickness, decisiveness, and speed to a piece. It is important to be aware of the content of a piece and look for connections to syntax. Pay attention to how pacing relates to the action and purpose of a particular piece.
· Long, convoluted sentences, especially with subordinate clauses at the beginning tend to slow the pace of a piece. Often they are connected to a contemplative section, a heavy or serious subject and the writer wants to emphasize it. Sometimes, however, they are placed in a piece for the purpose of demonstrating the ramblings of a character, the ludicrousness of an idea, or the ridiculousness of a situation. Watch for occasional satire or irony in these long sentences.
· How does syntax contribute to and enhance the meaning and effect of language?
· How does syntax contribute to tone?
1. “Syntax” refers to the ways words and phrases are arranged to form sentences. The reader must identify an author’s syntax and discuss the relationship it has to the content of the passage. Authors may use:
a. specific patterns of phrases and sentences
b. divisions within a piece with different syntax for each
c. parallel structure
d. different sentence types
e. specific kinds of punctuation
f. other syntax techniques
2. To begin studying syntax, follow the following steps:
a. Number the sentences in the passage. This will help analyze each sentence and discuss it efficiently.
b. Make observations about the content and syntax of each sentence or group of sentences. Look for elements listed above or others observed.
i. Does the sentence length fit the subject matter?
ii. Why is the sentence length effective?
iii. What variety of sentence lengths is present?
iv. Sentence beginnings – Variety or Pattern?
v. Arrangement of ideas in sentences
vi. Arrangement of ideas in paragraph – Pattern?
c. Write down what is observed. These observations will be the paper’s examples.
· Examine sentence beginnings. Is there a good variety or does a pattern emerge?
· Examine the arrangement of ideas in a sentence. Are they set out in a special way for a purpose?
· Examine sentence patterns.
Describe the sentence structure by considering the following:
1. Examine the sentence length. Are the sentences telegraphic (shorter than 5 words in length), short (approximately 5 words in length), medium (approximately 18 words in length), or long and involved (30 or more words in length)? Does ...