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functions of language proposed by the structural linguist Roman Jakobson

Roman Jackabson was a famous linguist in the Russian formalism period. He proposed six functions of language that are;

  1. Referential function
  2. Emotive function
  3. Conative function
  4. Poetic function
  5. Phatic function
  6. Metalingual function

1. Referential function

This function of language indicates that language is used to point out the things in the real world. It is used to refer to event, idea, happenings and entities. For example, we use language to talk about the people, the places and locations etc. so whenever language is used to give reference about entities which may be concrete or abstract the language is in fact functioning as referential device.

2. Emotive function

Other than pointing out things in the real world, language is also used to express our emotions; that how feel, how it feels like to be in a certain situation such as when we lose someone or when we leave our house and go to a distant place.

3. Conative function

Apart from the referential and emotive function of the language, one of the most important function of language is that we use it for giving instructions and commands. Conative functions is important in the sense that many of the physical changes in the world happens whenever a person in higher authority gives command to someone. For example, when a judge tells a culprit “I sentence you to death”, there happens an action – the action that that person is hanged. Similarly, another example can be taken that if a boss utters “I fire you”, the employee gets fired.

4. Poetic function

The poetic function of language is a decorative use of language. It is gameplay with the words – but a gameplay that affects the aesthetic sense of the listeners or readers. The poetic function of language can be traced back the known history of humans. People have always been using language poetically. However, not everyone is skilled at using this function of the language.

5. Phatic function

The phatic function of language shows that language is used to talk to people. It is common for people in engage in small or long discussions. People chat with each to spend time, to share information, to get to know each other and so on.

6. Metalingual function

The metalingual function of language is that people not only use language to communicate with each other, but they also unconsciously analyzed the language. For example, whenever we talk to someone, we are communicating more than what the words say. That is we also express our identity while speak. This happens through our way of speaking, our style, accent, choice of words etc. Therefore, it is possible for us to find out the whether the person we are talking to is native of our language or not.

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