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Syntactization is the process by which pragmatic principles are turned into grammatical/syntactic structures.

Givón (1979: 208) distinguishes between the following four types of syntactization:

  1. Diachronic: Loose parataxis --> Tight syntax
  2. Ontogenetic: Early pragmatic mode --> Later syntactic mode
  3. Pidgin-Creoles: Nongrammar --> Grammar
  4. Register level: Unplanned-informal speech --> Planned-formal speech

According to Givón (ibid.) all of those four domains have in common that "loose, paratactic, 'pragmatic' discourse structures" are turned "into tight, 'grammaticalized' syntactic structures".


Diachronic syntactization can be witnessed e.g. when (discourse) topics turn into (grammatical) subjects in a language.

In the development from a pidgin to a creole language the change from massive word-order variation between the individual speakers of a pidgin to a more predictable word-order of the creole language-community has been reported.


The term was coined by T. Givón, and apparently first used in Givón 1979.


  • Givón, Talmy. 1979. On Understanding Grammar. Ch. 5, Syntactization. New York: Academic Press.