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Functions of Language

Year 11 English Language
Unit 1
AoS 1: The nature and function of language

Some questions to get started….
1. What is language?
2. Does language involve facial expressions
and gestures, or are these outside your
definition of language?
3. Are humans the only animal to use

We are Uniquely LanguageUsers
Other Animals Communicate
• Cats arch their back to scare the neighbor
• Bees tell each other when they have found
• Chimpanzees can be taught to use
primitive sign language to communicate

We are Uniquely LanguageUsers
We Use Language
• We can separate our vocalization
from a given situation (cats only arch
their back in the appropriate
• We can lie (animals only report)
• We can speculate (animals are bad at

2010): “System of spoken sounds or conventional symbols for communicating thought. • Dictionary definition (Collins.” .What is language? • Language is an expression of thinking and feeling: a way of representing our thoughts and of signalling our thoughts and feelings to others.

• (b)the ability to communicate by this means. 759) Language is [ 1 ] • (a) human speech. used for the expression or communication of thoughts and feelings. • (d) the written representation of such a system. • (c) a system of vocal sounds and combinations of such sounds to which meaning is attributed.Webster' s New World Dictionary (Pp. .

. as gestures. signs. 759) [2] • (a) 'any means of expressing or communicating. • (b) a special set of symbols. used for the transmission of information.Webster' s New World Dictionary (Pp. or animal sounds.. letters. numerals. as in a computer. rules etc. . .

A Generally Accepted Definition • Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication. .

Why communication? . Why vocal? 4. Why human? 6. Why symbols? 5.Understanding the Definition • • • • • • 1. Why arbitrary? 3. Why a system? 2.

” Bloch & Trager: “a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates.” Hall: “the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral-auditory arbitrary symbols.” Chomsky: “a set (finite or infinite) of sentences. emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols.Some more definitions Sapir: “a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas.” . each finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements.

912 .What is Language? A dialect with an army.002 2. Africa Americas Asia Europe Pacific TOTAL 2.310 6.269 239 1.092 1.

arbitrary symbol system – A signal is transmitted from a sender to a receiver (or group of receivers) along a channel of communication. The signal will have a particular form and will convey a particular meaning (or message).Language as a system of signs: An open-ended. Is there anything missing from the definition? . explain in your own words the above explanation of language. The connection between form and meaning constitutes a code. Activity: Using examples.

ACTIVITY • Explain which definition of language you prefer and explain why. or else provide your own definition. .

Characteristics common to languages • Spoken – Exceptions: sign language and dead languages (Latin) • Arbitrary – Chair / aardvark – All must agree on the selected term • Linear – One element follows another .

What are the functions of language? • Using a language as a primary means of communicating our thoughts is so natural for many people that it is often difficult to realise what in fact are language functions. .

or to reason things out. • By use of Declarative Sentences . Informative • Language serves an informative function when it is used to tell what the speaker believes. to give information about facts.Functions of Language 1.

Interrogative: When language is used to get information from others. . it serves an interrogative function • Through Questions that expect answers.Functions of Language 2.

• Five sub-categories of interpersonal function: performative. directive. emotive. and phatic. expressive. . Interpersonal: Language serves an interpersonal function when it is used to establish and maintain their status in a society.Functions of Language 3.

1 Performative: the use of language to “do things”. to perform actions. • Through quite formal and even ritualized language.Functions of Language • 3. .

Functions of Language • 3. . it serves a directive function.2 Directive: When language is used to get the hearer do something. • Most Imperative sentences.

Propaganda. Advertising. etc. • Through Jokes. .3 Emotive: the use of language to create certain feelings in the hearer.Functions of Language • 3.

.4 Expressive: the use of language to reveal something about the feelings and attitudes of the speaker. • Through Exclamations. etc.Functions of Language • 3.

• E. Greetings. Farewells.5 Phatic: the use of language to establish an atmosphere or maintaining social contact. etc.g. and Comments on the weather.Functions of Language • 3. .

Functions of Language • 4. etc. . Recreational: the use of language for the sheer joy of using it. poetry.g. baby’s babbling. • E.

• This makes language infinitely selfreflexive: We human beings can talk about talk and think about thinking. .Functions of Language • 5. Metalingual: the use of language to talk about language itself. to be human. and thus only humans can ask what it means to communicate. to think.

Activity • Why do we use language? • Create a mind-map which explores the different things you use language for during the day. .

Other Functions • • • • • Physiological Recording Identifying Reasoning Communicating .

• Sports fans – shouting instructions. cheers (release repressed energy). express support/disappointment. .Physiological Function • Releasing physical and nervous energy. • Cursing – rarely convey meaning and are only to make the speaker feel better.

Recording Function • Denotes using language to make a durable record of things that ought to be remembered. • Typically written language • Began with pictures and moved to the alphabet we use today .

• “and whatsoever Adam called every living creature. that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19) • Car or Automobile • Truck or Van or Lorry .Identifying Function • Language is used to identify the objects and events in the world we live in. • Without this function language would be almost useless.

.Reasoning Function • Instrument of thought • Before we say something we think and to do that we necessarily use language. • It is difficult to think about anything without any use of words.

Communicating Function • Often the first function that people identify. • Most commonly used by the majority of speakers. – – – – – – Requesting Apologising Informing Ordering Promising Refusing .

Activity A means to convey information • Drawing using only verbal instructions. .

How easy or difficult was it to give clear and effective instruction? 2.Giving instructions: 1. Did you have any particular verbal signals that helped your partner to draw more effectively? 3. What were they? .

Following Instructions 1. What were they? . Did your partner give you any particular clues that helped you? 3. How easy or difficult was it to draw the image? 2.

it is being used to communicate by linking EXPRESSION to CONTENT.• Whatever function language is serving. • Two further aspects that are critically important for communication and interpreting meaning: – AUDIENCE – CONTEXT .

Audience • Language choice is dependent on audience. .

• Notions of inappropriate language use depends upon attitudes and context.Context • Language choice is dependent on where the communication is taking place. Is this Cotton On Kids T-shirt appropriate? .

Metalanguage Terms EXPRESSSION: refers to the words. phrases and sentences are used. phrases and sentences are designed to do. phrases and sentences. (Consider: is there a difference between function and purpose?) . phrases and sentences. CONTENT: refers to the meaning of the words. AUDIENCE: refers to the addressee(s) of the words. FUNCTION: refers to what the words. phrases and sentences CONTEXT: refers to the social situation in which words.

Activity • McMillan pp.11-12 – Activity 1.4 Q1 – Activity 1.5 Q1 .