A formal definition of the syntactic structure of a language (see syntax), normally given in terms of production rules which specify the order of constituents and their sub-constituents in a sentence (a well-formed string in the language). Each rule has a left-hand side symbol naming a syntactic category (e.g. "noun-phrase" for a natural language grammar) and a right-hand side which is a sequence of zero or more symbols. Each symbol may be either a terminal symbol or a non-terminal symbol. A terminal symbol corresponds to one "lexeme" - a part of the sentence with no internal syntactic structure (e.g. an identifier or an operator in a computer language). A non-terminal symbol is the left-hand side of some rule.

One rule is normally designated as the top-level rule which gives the structure for a whole sentence.

A grammar can be used either to parse a sentence (see parser) or to generate one. Parsing assigns a terminal syntactic category to each input token and a non-terminal category to each appropriate group of tokens, up to the level of the whole sentence. Parsing is usually preceded by lexical analysis. Generation starts from the top-level rule and chooses one alternative production wherever there is a choice.

See also: BNF, yacc, attribute grammar, grammar analysis.

(03 Feb 2009)

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1. The science which treats of the principles of language; the study of forms of speech, and their relations to one another; the art concerned with the right use aud application of the rules of a language, in speaking or writing.

The whole fabric of grammar rests upon the classifying of words according to their function in the sentence.

2. The art of speaking or writing with correctness or according to established usage; speech considered with regard to the rules of a grammar. "The original bad grammar and bad spelling." (Macaulay)

3. A treatise on the principles of language; a book containing the principles and rules for correctness in speaking or writing.

4. Treatise on the elements or principles of any science; as, a grammar of geography. Comparative grammar, the science which determines the relations of kindred languages by examining and comparing their grammatical forms. Grammar school. A school, usually endowed, in which Latin and Greek grammar are taught, as also other studies preparatory to colleges or universities; as, the famous Rugby Grammar School. This use of the word is more common in England than in the United States. "When any town shall increase to the number of a hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the University." (Mass. Records (1647)) In the American system of graded common schools an intermediate grade between the primary school and the high school, in which the principles of English grammar are taught.

Origin: OE. Gramere, OF. Gramaire, F. Grammaire Prob. Fr. L. Gramatica Gr, fem. Of skilled in grammar, fr. Letter. See Gramme, Graphic, and cf. Grammatical, Gramarye.

(01 Mar 1998)

graminifolious, graminoid, gram-ion, grammar < Prev | Next > grammar analysis, grammatical inference, gramme

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