Semantics-pragmatics-syntax trinity

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This article describes the connection between semantics, pragmatics and syntax in linguistics. "Semantics-pragmatics-syntax trinity" is probably not an official term.

Simple explanation[edit]


Semantics tells about the meaning in a language, code, or other form of representation.

Semantics is all about the meaning.


Pragmatics is concerned with bridging the explanatory gap between sentence meaning and speaker's meaning.

Pragmatics is all about use.


Syntax is the study of the rules, or "patterned relations", that govern the way words combine to form phrases and phrases combine to form sentences.

Syntax is all about form.

Example: Traffic lights[edit]

The meaning of traffic lights may be split up in three parts as follows:


The color red is for "stop", and green is for "go". Often an amber signal is used to indicate the traffic light will soon be red. In parts of Europe, the red and amber signals together indicate the traffic light will soon be green.


However, these signals may not be used the same. In the European variation, in some countries people start driving as soon as the red and amber signals are both lit, while in other countries drivers wait for the green signal. In some places it is considered normal to cross red lights as well, though prohibited.


Traffic lights exist in many forms, as seen in the traffic light article. On the road, the red light is usually up and the green light down, while railroads usually use them the other way around. On large ships, usually there is a red light on the port side, and a green one on the starboard side, as discussed in the article International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.