According to Fukuyama University Asst. Prof. Warren M Tang1 What is morphosyntax? – in other words

Morphosyntax is another word for grammar.

Grammar can be divided into morphology and syntax. Morphology is the study of words and their rules of formation. And syntax is the study of sentences and their rules of formation. Essentially, morphology and syntax are studies of the same thing – formation rules of a language – but at differing “levels”.

By calling it by the transparent term morphosyntax we are highlighting this dualism.

But lemontree includes Phonology and Semantics into the definition of "grammar", so that Grammar = Morphosyntax + Phonology + Semantics. If lemontree is correct, then Morphosyntax ⊊ Grammar. Who's correct? Daughter's 17 years old. We never studied linguistics. PLEASE SIMPLIFY ALL FEEDBACK.

1B. Arts (Hons.) (Japanese and Literature, University of Newcastle), M.Ed (Applied Linguistics, Hiroshima University) 2006-2009, PhD (Applied Linguistics, Hiroshima University).

  • But also, at least for me, morphosyntax is about things that involve both morphology and syntax. It is the intersection of the two, not the union.
    – Keelan
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 8:35
  • Right, morphosyntax is the study of morphs, which are words or parts of words. One examines how morphs relate to each other within words and across words. Morphosyntax is hence the study of the interface between morphology and syntax. Grammar is indeed a broader concept, including other subfields of linguistics: phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 9:50
  • My understanding of morphosyntax differs - I thought the term arose because many linguists don't think that the "word" is a useful concept, and so structural analysis can't be divided into sub- and super- word levels, instead structural analysis (morphosyntax) covers all structures from morphemes to sentences, and maybe even to discourses.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 13:36
  • 1
    These are all just names. Different people call things by different names. "Morphosyntax" is a newish term, but useful if you know what morphology and syntax both are. Here's my contribution to terminological clarity, though the comments show that not everyone wants to use the terms that way.
    – jlawler
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


Linguistics is a notoriously divided field and it's unsurprising if people do not agree on these terms (and grammar can be a particularly loose term -- I think lemontree gets at that in the answer you link!). What one includes in one's definition of grammar depends on the theoretical framework one subscribes to and how one views language. By way of example, let me briefly lay out the Cognitive Grammar view, probably largely agreeable to linguists taking a usage-based approach to language.

Langacker (1987: 57) talks about grammar as the "psychological representation of the linguistic system" and characterizes this as "those aspects of cognitive organization in which resides a speaker's grasp of established linguistic convention" (p. 57) / "a speaker's knowledge of linguistic convention" (p. 36) / "a structured inventory of conventional linguistic units" (p. 57).

For an idea of what is included in this view of grammar and how it might differ from other views, we have this quotation:

"Contemporary linguistic theory generally views language as being organized into discrete components. In particular, syntax is seen as sharply distinct from both lexicon and semantics, constituting an autonomous set of formal relationships. Cognitive grammar, by contrast, claims that lexicon, morphology, and syntax form a continuum of symbolic units [i.e., form-meaning pairings] serving to structure conceptual content. It is incoherent in this view to speak of grammar in isolation from meaning, and the segmentation of grammatical structure into discrete components is rejected." (pp. 34-5)

Where some linguists view grammar as a purely formal system, here grammar is inherently bound up with meaning. Where some linguists sharply distinguish between 'syntax, morphology and lexicon' (such linguists might even say 'grammar and lexicon'), here they form a gradation which can be distinguished only arbitrarily.

So the point that I want to get across is that there is no one definitive, correct answer to the question 'What is the definition of grammar?' or 'What is included in grammar?'. It comes down to the framework one works within and how one views language.

  • Langacker, Ronald W. (1987). Foundations of Cognitive Grammar (vol. 1): Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford UP.

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