Syntax and literature are so important and dependent upon each other that the two cannot be separated. Syntax in literature gives the sum of the words meaning in a way that simply listing words never would. Syntax influences literature in a big way, because without proper syntax literature would simply not exist, nor would many of the subtleties that academics and casual readers alike love to ponder. In looking at syntax in literature, writers can use it in numerous ways to convey different meanings and provoke certain responses.
In order to look at the role of syntax in literature, it is first necessary to understand exactly what syntax is. Syntax is defined as as the structure and placement of words for the purposes of creating sentences. Usually, syntax does not concern itself with the placement of punctuation, though punctuation can help the reader determine where a certain emphasis is in the sentence. Such grammatical marks can help convey even deeper meaning than syntax alone.
By following the rules of language, syntax in literature helps convey meaning. Wording can help the reader determine who is speaking, and the overall mood of the author wishes to convey, in a logical fashion. Readers typically expect a certain syntax flow. In some cases, such as with E. E. Cummings, syntax provided a figurative canvas for poetic expression that intentionally broke the rules of the English language in order to create a unique look and feel. Poetry is one area in which syntax often differs from its usage in other written forms.
Without proper syntax, literature would simply be a list of words that conveyed no particular meaning. Some have likened literature without syntax to words in a dictionary. While the words all mean something, they are not put together in any way that conveys a deeper sense of meaning or mood.
In most literature, syntax takes a standard form that most can recognize. Despite this standard form, the author still has a great deal of leeway in developing sentences to create moods and convey thoughts. The author may choose longer sentences or shorter sentences. He or she may use larger words that flow or shorter words that help break up the passage. The possibilities are virtually endless.
Syntax in literature, at least in most forms of literature, begins with the typical construction of subject and verb. The subject and verb must agree, or be conjugated properly. In English, this usually involves putting an "s" or "ed" at the end of the verb, or simply leaving it alone. In other languages, verb forms can be much more complex and incorporate many different ending forms. These forms, in some languages, can be used to infer what the subject is, thus replacing the need to mention the subject in all cases; consequently when literary works are translated from one language to another, one of the great challenges is choosing syntactical structures in the target language that accurately represent the precise meaning found in the original.