The Functions of Language
Language exists to serve three main functions: experiential, interpersonal, and textual. Language experiential function serves language users’ needs to make meanings of their ‘world’, to label the various experiences they have. In other words, language is used to represent users’ thoughts. It is user to label things, feelings, attitudes, events, and others that constitute our environment.
The interpersonal function of language serves users’ needs to establish and maintain social relathionship with other members of the society. Language is used for a wide range of communication purposes users are trying to achieve. They use it to perform actions such as instructing, informing, inviting, showing likes and dislikes, and others. At the same time, users reflect their views on their social status in relation to the people they interact with. Social values are also shared and maintained through people’s use of languge.
Textual function of language, on the other hands refers to the capacity of language to ‘embody’ language users’ thoughts and actions. It gives forms to concepts and meanings language users intend to express by means of textual features or elements. The three functions of language can be identified at the same time in any piece of language used by speakers and writers.
You have learned about the three main functions of language. It is, then, time to check your comprehension of the above dicussions. Now, do the following exercises. When you finish, check your answers with the key answers provided in the last section of the module.
DISCOURSE AND CONTEXT OF SITUATION
Field of Discourse
Defined as language doing some jobs in some contexts of situation the job of a discourse is to represent the meanings of its context of situation. In representing such meanings of discourses may vary in their qualities, particularly in their unity and coherence. To judge the quality of discourse it is necessary to analyze the context of situation which can be inferred from the elements of the discourse. In analyzing a context of situation we focus attention on its three components or aspects, i.e. Its field of discourse, tenor of discourse, and its mode of discourse. In analyzing the field of discourse we need to identify its processes, participants, and its attendant circumstances.
Tenor of Discourse
If the field discourse refers to the content of discourse i.e. the processes, the participants, and the attendant circumstances involved WITHIN a discourse, the tenor of discourse refers to the PERSONS who are interesting by means of a discourse, i.e. the persons who are in charge of the production, the transmission, and the nature of the RELATIONS obtaining between the persons respective ROLES. The role relations comprise three aspects: the relevant AGENT ROLES, the relevant DYADIC STRUCTURE, and the relevant SOCIAL DISTANCE. These three aspects of the role relations are closely related to whether or not the social activity involving the discourse is institutionalized. An institutionalized activity tends to involve specific agent roles, a hierarchical dyadic structure, and a social distance that leans towards the maximal degree
Mode of Discourse
The mode of discourse refers to how language plays its role in social activities. The mode of discourse comprises three components or aspects too. They are LANGUAGE ROLE, PROCESS SHARING, and MEDIUM. The role of language may be CONSTITUTIVE or ANCILLARY. The process sharing ranges from the most ACTIVE to the most PASSIVE. Process sharing is closely related to CHANNEL, which may be PHONIC or GRAPHIC. The component, i.e. Medium, is divided into SPOKEN MEDIUM and WRITTEN MEDIUM. Medium refers to how linguistic elements are organized in a discourse.
Discourse and Field of Discourse
Entitled “Discourse and The Field of Discourse” this unit is mainly concerned with how elements of the field of discourse are represented by language, particularly by the experiential component of the semantic system. As the representation of the field of discourse, the experiential component is similarly composed of three kinds of elements, i.e. processes, participants, and attendant circumstances. Processes may be classified into three major types, i.e. material, mental, and relational processes, and three minor types, i.e. behavioral, verbal, and existential processes.
Each of the process types involves specific types of participant. The participant types include: Actor – Goal/Patient, Senser – Phenomenon, Carrier – Attribute, Identified – Identifier, Behaver, Sayer – Target, Existent, Beneficiary, and Range. Processes may also involve attendant circumstances. Circumstantial elements include: Extent and Location in Time and Space, Manner, Cause, Accompaniment, Matter, and Role.
The processes, participants, and circumstances which constitute the content of a discourse are interwoven in a coherent way, and are expressed by appropriate lexical and grammatical elements. By studying the lexical and grammatical elements we will be able to analyze the processes, participants, and circumstances which constitute that content of the discourse.
Discourse and Tenor of Discourse
The tenor of discourse is represented in discourse by the Interpersonal function of language. In the English Interpersonal system there are four major speech functions, i.e. statements, questions, offers, and commands, by means of which addressers and addressees exchange information as well as goods and services in appropriate, effective, and efficient ways. This is made possible by organizing pieces of information into propositions which consists of Moods and Residues. The Mood plays a vital role in interpersonal interactions because it embodies the essential elements required in interpersonal exchanges, i.e. persons/subjects, time reference, modality, and polarity. The verbal operators, which are limited in number but quite adequate in function, enable speakers and listeners to interact effectively and efficiently. With the aid of the Residue system, which incorporates a great variety of predicators, complements, and adjuncts, addressers and addresses are able to exchange practically all kinds of information, goods, and services.
Discourse and Mode of Discourse
The mode of discourse, which is the component of a context of situation that specifically refers to language, is represented by the textual function of language. The job of the textual component of the semantic system is to organize message. In the context of sentence, a message takes the form of theme plus rheme. The theme constitutes what a speaker wants to focus on. In functions as the starting point for the message to be expressed. Therefore, the theme is represented by the sentence constituent that occupies the front position. The elements following the theme constitute the theme, i.e. the elements of the message that relate to the theme.
A theme may be unmarked, i.e. typical, or marked, i.e. no typical. A theme is classified as a simple theme if its elements constitute one single constituent of a sentence, e.g. a nominal group, a nominalization, a prepositional phrase, an adverbial phrase etc. The other type is multiple theme, i.e. a message theme that consists of two or more units that constitute different constituent Unlike a simple theme which is always a topical/experiential theme, a multiple theme consists of one topical theme plus one or more non-topical themes, i.e. textual and/or interpersonal themes.
Every sentence-type – declarative, imperative, explanative, WH-interrogative, or Yes/No-interrogative – has a specific theme. Besides the specific theme – mostly a topical one – there may be one or more additional themes, so that the theme becomes a multiple theme. Except in Yes/No-questions, the additional themes are textual and/or interpersonal themes.
The Structure of Discourse
As members of a socio-cultural group we have been involved in various of social activity. This frequent involvement has made us aware that every type of social activity is structure in a distinct way, i.e.it consists of certain essential elements which are arranged in a specific way. Since a discourse constitutes the verbal expression of a social activity, the discourse would naturally have a structure which corresponds to that of the social activity it expresses verbally.
From experience we also know that structure is not the property of individual discourse and individual social activity only, but it is shared by discourse and social activities which belong to the same type. Every discourse type has a distinct structure which corresponds to the structure of the type of social activity that is verbally expressed by the discourse type. Classroom discourse would have a structure that differs from that of shopping discourse or problem-solution discourse.
The structure various types of discourse constitutes one of the focal objects of discourse analysis .The other focal object is the texture of discourse, i.e. how its meaning elements are interrelated. The structure and the texture of a discourse play a very important role in determining its unity and its coherence.
Discourse Structure and Contextual Confifuration
Every discourse type has a definite structure. It is for this reason that we can easily distinguish one discourse type from another, our knowledge of the structures of various discourse types also enables us to judge whether a sequence of utterances is a non discourse, an incomplete discourse, or a complete one. It also enable us to judge whether or not a discourse is well-formed. We have developed this knowledge mainly through our socio-cultural experience by participating in various kinds of social activity.
The various discourse types are technically referred to as registers or genres of discourse. Every registers or genre is closely related to a specific social activity because a discourse is essentially the verbal expression of the related social activity. Therefore the structure of the discourse (type)necessarily corresponds to the structur of the (type of) social activity. the basic unit of the social activity is technically referred to as contextual configuration, or shortened as CC. It is the structure of the CC that is actually expressed verbally by its related discourse. Every CC is structure in accordance with how a specific field of discourse is merged with a specific tenor and a specific mode of discourse. Our knowledge of the structures of various types of discourse as well as their relations to the structures of their CC’s enables us to participate smoothly and effectively in a greet number of discourses and their related social activities
Discourse Structure and Its Elements
A discourse is a semantic unit. Therefore, its structure consists of units of meaning which are exchanged by the agent roles, i.e. the speaker/writer and the addressee. The structure involves obligatory and optional elements may be iterated, but the iteration of elements has to be performed according to certain rules.
The Texture of Discourse
Unlike discourse structure, which refers to the sequencing of the obligatory and optional elements of a discourse corresponding to a specific social activity, discourse texture refers to the interrelations of semantic elements contained in the individual messages of a discourse. Therefore, texture is not determined by the completeness of a discourse; an incomplete discourse may also have good texture.
Discourse texture is determined by how the meaning elements contained in the individual messages of a discourse are related to each other; the better the interrelations the better the texture. These semantic interrelations are realized by appropriate lexico-grammatical elements. Thus, discourse texture is primarily a network of relations among linguistic elements. These relations are referred to as co-textual relations, because they exist within the text itself, without directly involving its context of situation.
Texture, Cohesive Ties, and Cohesive Devices
The texture of a discourse is composed of the meaning relations among the individual messages that are involved in the discourse. These meaning relations are referred to as cohesive ties. Cohesive ties may be co-referential (i.e. referring to the same entity), or co-extensional (i.e. belonging to the semantic field)
Cohesive ties area formally represented by cohesive devices, i.e. lexico-grammatical elements which signify componential relations (such as ‘reference’ substitution’, and ‘ellipsis) pr organic relations (such ‘conjunctives’ and ‘adjacency pairs’. Such devices area classified as grammatical devices. Besides, there are lexical devices, which are sub-divided into those that signify componential relations (such and those that signify organic relations (such as ‘continuatives’).
Grammatical and lexical devices represent non-structural cohesion. In addition to these there are special device, such as ‘parallelism’, ‘theme-rheme’, and ‘Given-New’, which represent structural cohesion.
Discourse Texture and Coherence
The texture of a discourse is essentially a network of intermessages and intra-messages realtions of meaning. These meaning inter-realtions are realized by cohesive chains (of meaning) and bya chain interactions. Themore elements of a messages the greater the contribution to forming a cohesive texture.
This contributions will be still greater if each cohesive chain involves a large number of successive messages. Besides cohesive chains, chains interactions also play a very important role in developing the texture of a discourse. A chain interactions is a situation in which at least two elements oa a a cohesives chain stand in the same realtins to at least to elements ao another cohesive chain. The relations may be “actor an actions” “actions and acted-upon”, “actor and location”, etc. The more elemetns of a cohesive chain or other chains, the more cohesive the texture of a discourse is, the more coherent the discourse will be.
Besides the number and the length of cohesive chains which exist among successive messages, as well as the length and the number of chain interactions which involve the cohesive chains, the interrelationships of chain inteactions are also very important. The chain interactions within a discourse should be related to each other in such a way that they from an integrated network of chain interactions.
No chain interaction should be isolated from the network. Otherwise, the cohesiveness of the discourse texture will be less than optimal, and thus the discourse will not have optimal coherence.