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Functional Linguistics

A session on Functional Linguistics given as part of a summer school

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Functional Linguistics

  1. 1. Functional Linguistics VUB-BNU Summer School “European Languages, culture and educational systems” Dr. Kamakshi Rajagopal
  2. 2. Structure of the session Some theory (45min) Video (15min) Break (5min) Group exercise Plenary presentation and discussion
  3. 3. Functionalism • Meaning is the primary driver of form in language • Language, as an instrument, has features which can be used to perform certain functions In Europe, two schools of thought: • Prague School  Jakobson • Copenhagen School  Halliday
  4. 4. Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) Six functions of language • Referential function • Expressive function • Conative function • Poetic function • Phatic function • Metalingual function
  5. 5. Sender Message Receiver Encodes meaning in a form Decodes form to meaning Common meaning- to-form-to- meaning system
  6. 6. Sender Channel Context Message Receiver Code Other words No common words Message did not reach correctly Reference of the meaning in the outside world is different – Different FACTS Intended receiver is not listening Sender has a particular opinion about the message
  7. 7. Sender Channel Context Message Receiver Code Establish common meaning- to-form-to-meaning Check the channel Check the facts Address the personExpress the opinion
  8. 8. Sender Channel Context Message Receiver Code Reference Expressive ConativePoetic / Aesthetic Phatic Metalingual
  9. 9. Michael Halliday (1925)
  10. 10. 3 main metafunctions of language • Ideational metafunction – Language helps us “construct human experience”: how the individual perceives the world • Interpersonal metafunction – Language allows us express the interactions and complex relations with the other person in society • Textual metafunction – Language allows us to bring structure to our interactions and organize the language system itself, making communication easier
  11. 11. Interpersonal metafunction • The society we live in is complex • Through language, we can bring more clarity in this social complexity • On micro-level (e.g. one-to-one dialogues) • On societal level (e.g. belonging to particular groups)
  12. 12. Textual metafunction • Through the multitude of meaning that we want to express through language, it becomes complex • Language itself gives tools to bring structure to the things we express, making communication clearer • e.g. in written language: – firstly, secondly, thirdly – on the one hand,… on the other hand – And; But ; Moreover; ….
  13. 13. Ideational metafunction • As human beings, we observe, experience and (try to) understand the world • We can use language to express – things that happen in the world – the connections and relationships between things – the things we see, hear, feel, experience! • Grammatical system of TRANSITIVITY with 6 process types to articulate perceptions and experiences
  14. 14. Ideational metafunction Relational process Verbal process Mental process Behavioural process Material process Existential process
  15. 15. Meaning?
  16. 16. What it is > No relation to the speaker > SEMANTICS What it means to me, the Speaker > Intention of the speaker > PRAGMATICS TREE PLANTS BIRDS FOREST HOME HOLIDAY SUMMER
  17. 17. Speech Act Theory A Speech Act is an utterance which “does more than what its pure meaning” • Locutionary act: the utterance itself “It is cold here.” • Illocutionary act: the intended result of the speaker Request to close the door • Perlocutionary act: the effect of the illocutionary act (outside language) The door is closed
  18. 18. Types of illocutionary acts • Assertives – e.g. Singing national anthem • Directives – e.g. Request, Command • Commissives – e.g. Promise • Expressives – e.g. Congratulations, Thanks • Declarations – e.g. Pronounce, Declare
  19. 19. Exercises: Language in Cartoon • Communication Act? • Speech Acts? • What does it say about the characters? – How do they feel? – What do they want?
  20. 20. Discussion • Material processes deal with Activity • Behavioural processes often concern functions of the body • Existential processes describe things that “exist” • Relational processes talk about the quality or characteristics of entities There is discussion possible about which category is intended! • Not every utterance is a speech act!!!
  21. 21. Difference between Systemic Functional Grammar and Speech Acts Talking about a tree, to figure out how it got there and why it is the way it is Talking about a tree, to figure out how to work with it
  22. 22. References • Roman Jakobson Jakobson, J. (1962-1987). The Selected Writings of Roman Jakobson, The Hague and Berlin: Mouton. • M.A.K. Halliday Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). An introduction to functional grammar. London: E. Arnold. • Pragmatics Austin, J. L. (1962) How to Do Things With Words. Oxford University Press.

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