The Real Functions of Language

Did you know that language plays a key role in human lives? Yes, in fact it is a social phenomenon that connects people by communicating and understanding them. When we speak, we want to convey a certain message through language. People use a language to express their feelings, to persuade, ask for help, entice, urge, and apologize. Most people use language depending on the situation at hand and their social background. In fact, any language may vary depending on the kind of people who use it, the nature of the society, and their attitudes.

 

That said, language has some several functions. In this section we will highlight some of the main ones. Roman Jakobson’s (1960) linguistic model outlines six major functions of language which are: the referential function (context); conative function, ( the addressee); the emotive function, (the addresser); the poetic function, (the message); the metalingual function, (the code); and the phatic function (the contact).

The Referential Function

 

Jakobson explains that the context is commonly used to describe the “referent ambigous nomenclature.” As for the referentail function of language, it is clear that the function relates to what is being discussed. Similarly, the referential function is associated with an element whose true value is under questioning espicially when the truth value is identical in both the real and assumptive universe.

 

The Conative Function

 

The conative function can be described as a set of three functions including the expression (symptom), representation (symbol) and appeal (signal). Its main aim is to influence the behavior and attitudes of other people. It also involves commands and requests which are more common on the receiver’s end. It is more concerned with giving the conceptual meaning rather than connotative meaning.

 

The Emotive Function

 

The emotive function can also be referred to as the expressive function and it has nothing to do with emotions. When we say that language have an expressive function, it means that it can be used to express the addresser’s feelings and attitudes. The most obvious instances are the use of swear words and exclamations. The author or writer expresses his or her feelings and the function can give a clear image of the writer’s personality. In simple words, it can evoke certain feelings by the user. An example is, I spend a memorable vacation.

 

The Poetic Function

 

The poetic function, also known as the aesthetic function involves the use of language as a linguistic artfact. According to Geoffery Leech (1974), the aesthetic function tend to explain the conceptual meaning than the affective meaning. Any art that is valued as an actual art is associated with this function. Similarly, any object that is valued for its beauty rather than its usefulness fits this function. Jakobson shows that the cultural norms determine the dominance of the aesthetic function.

 

The Metalingual Function

 

The metalingual function is more concerned with the code in its latent form. It occurs when the verbal code is developed implicitly as a central theme. This occurs when two different languages or codes are used within a language.
The metalingual function mostly occurs when there is a disruption in the communication process especially when two or more figures speak different languages. This means that the figures must speak two languages and at the same time use different codes within one language.

 

The Phatic Function

 

This function keeps open communication lines and good social relationships. Apparently, this function is deemed fit for normal talks. For example you meet a friend accidentally in a certain place, you start talking about something that is unimportant just to keep the communication going like, how are you? How is your family? And so on. This can be described as normal and daily talking.

 

By now you should have an idea of what each of the six language functions entail . Keep in mind that each one of them represents a different idea and it is important to note the distinguishing factor in each of them. They will help you understand the language better and connect with other people. Good Luck!