An orderly combination of interacting signifiers which forms a meaningful whole (sometimes called a ‘chain’). In language, a sentence, for instance, is a syntagm of words. Syntagmatic relations are the various ways in which constituent units within the same text may be structurally related to each other. A signifier enters into syntagmatic relations with other signifiers of the same structural level within the same text. Syntagmatic relationships exist both between signifiers and between signifieds. Relationships between signifiers can be either sequential (e.g. in film and television narrative sequences), or spatial (e.g. montage in posters and photographs; see also spatial relations). Relationships between signifieds are conceptual relationships (such as argument). Syntagms are created by the linking of signifiers from paradigm sets which are chosen on the basis of whether they are conventionally regarded as appropriate or may be required by some syntactic rule system (e.g. grammar). Syntagmatic analysis is a structuralist technique which seeks to establish the surface structure of a text and the relationships between its parts. The study of syntagmatic relations reveals the rules or conventions underlying the production and interpretation of texts. Compare paradigm.
Subjects: Media Studies.