Linguistic Functions refer to the general social uses of language, and there are just so many theories about it. Here in this article I’d like to share some theories that I know.
In Waugh (1980), Roman Jakobson defined six functions of language according to which an effective act of verbal communication can be described. Jakobson’s work was influenced by Karl Bühler’s Organon-Model, to which he added the poetic, phatic and metalingual functions. They are:
- The Referential Function
corresponds to the factor of Context and describes a situation, object or mental state. The descriptive statements of the referential function can consist of both definite descriptions and deictic words, e.g. “The autumn leaves have all fallen now.” Similarly, the referential function is associated with an element whose true value is under questioning especially when the truth value is identical in both the real and assumptive universe.
- The Poetic Function
focuses on “the message for its own sake’”(the code itself, and how it is used) and is the operative function in poetry as well as slogans.
- The Emotive (alternatively called “Expressive” or “Affective”) Function
relates to the Addresser (sender) and is best exemplified by interjections and other sound changes that do not alter the denotative meaning of an utterance but do add information about the Addresser’s (speaker’s) internal state, e.g. “Wow, what a view!”
- The Conative Function
- The Phatic Function
is language for the sake of interaction and is therefore associated with the Contact/Channel factor. The Phatic Function can be observed in greetings and casual discussions of the weather, particularly with strangers. It also provides the keys to open, maintain, verify or close the communication channel: “Hello?”, “Ok?”, “Hummm”, “Bye”…
- The Metalingual (alternatively called “Metalinguistic” or “Reflexive”) Function
is the use of language (what Jakobson calls “Code”) to discuss or describe itself.
Meanwhile, Geoffery Leech( 1974 ) mentioned that language has five functions. They are:
This function concentrates on the message. It is used to give new information. It depends on truth and value. Let us look at this example, the car is big, the bus is crowded.
It can be used to express its originator’s feelings and attitudes – swear words and exclamations are the most obvious instance of this. The speaker or writer of this function tries to express his feelings. He or she reflexes his or her impression. This function could give a clear image for the personality of the speaker or writer. The best example of this kind is Poetry and literature. In fact, this function evokes certain feelings and express feelings. Examples of this kind are, I am very happy or I spent a wonderful vacation. We can see from the previous examples that they reflex the feelings of the speaker or the writer.
The aim is to influence the behavior or attitudes of others. The most straightforward instances of the directive function are commands and requests. This function of social control places emphasis on the receiver’s end, rather than the originator’s end of the message: but it resembles the expressive function in giving less importance, on the whole, to conceptual meaning than to other types of meaning, particularly affective and connotative meaning” The examples of this kind are, I want a cup of tea or close the door.
The use of language for the sake of the linguistic artifact itself, and for no purpose. This aesthetic function can have at least as much to do with conceptual as with affective meaning. The function associated with the message-the vehicle-is the poetic or aesthetic function: the sign taken as an end in itself. All art understood as art is taken to embody this function, and any object valued for its beauty rather than for its ideological value or usefulness-whether a gorgeous car, an elegant teapot, or some acreage of untouched real estate-takes on this function.
The function of keeping communication lines open, and keeping social relationships in good repair ( in Britain culture, talking about the weather is a well-known example of this). An example of this, when two people meet each other accidently in a place. They start talking about something unimportant for the sake of communication like, how are you? How is your children? And so on. We can say that it is a kind of daily talking. It is not meaning but is good.
And the last theory is by H. Douglas Brown, who classified function of language into two types. His classification is not much different from that of Leech or Jakobson. They are:
- The transactional view
The language is used to convey ‘factual information or proportionate’
- The Interactional view
The functions involve social relationship and attitudes of individuals.
Waugh, Linda (1980), “The Poetic Function in the Theory of Roman Jakobson”, Poetics Today