LINGUISTIC MACROFUNCTIONS TO EXPRESS THE MOST COMMON COMMUNICATIVE INTENTIONS: TO ESTABLISH AND KEEP SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS. TO GIVE AND ASK FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THINGS, PEOPLE AND ACTIONS, TO EXPRESS INTELLECTUAL AND EMOTIONAL ATTITUDES.
2. LANGUAGE AS COMMUNICATION.
3. THE FUNCTIONS OF LANGUAGE.
3.3. Roman Jakobson.
4. HALLIDAY’S MACRO-FUNCTIONS.
5. SOCIALIZING: Initiating and maintaining social relationships.
5.3. Attracting attention.
5.5. Meeting people.
5.8. Proposing a toast.
5.9. Speaking on the phone.
5.11. Writing a letter or an e-mail.
6. ASKING AND GIVING INFORMATION.
6.1. Asking for clarification.
6.2. Expressing ability, agreement, obligation, opinion, preferences, and probability.
7. EXPRESSING EMOTIONS AND ATTITUDES.
7.2. Expressing approval, desire, feeling, intention, like/dislikes.
8. LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS IN SECOND LANGUAGE TEACHING.
In Spain some of the curriculum reforms of the LOE are based on those advocated in Europe in the seventies, such as the notional functional syllabus of Wilkins. He suggested that meaning should be the framework of the language course. His syllabus includes notions: space, quantity, quality, etc. and functions: informing, greeting, inviting, apologizing, etc. This unit is concerned with language functions that are currently one of the main elements in the curriculum. Our students should know when to choose different grammatical expressions to convey the function they want at a certain moment and they need to be able to do so in order to become communicatively competent in the foreign language.
2. LANGUAGE AS COMMUNICATION.
Along the centuries there have been an infinite number of definitions of language, some focusing on the general concept of language, others focusing on a more specific notion of language. It is difficult to make a precise and comprehensive statement about formal and functional universal properties of language. The word language has prompted innumerable definitions:
Sapir: “Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols.”
Trager: “A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which the members of a society interact in terms of their total culture.”
Halliday: “Language is an instrument of social interaction with a clear communicative purpose”.
3. THE FUNCTIONS OF LANGUAGE.
The most logical answer to the question “Why do we use language?” could be “to communicate ideas”, as this is probably the most widely recognised function of language. But it would be wrong to think of it as the only way in which we use language. People do different things with their language; by using it, they expect to achieve a large number of different aims and purposes. Below, we can examine the way a number of scholars have attempted to classify and list these functions.
He classified the functions of language into the two broad categories of pragmatic and magical. As an anthropologist, he was interested in the practical or pragmatic uses of language on the one hand, and on the other hand in the ritual or magical uses of language associated with ceremonial or religious activities in the culture.
He was concerned with the functions of language from the standpoint of the individual. His classification had three types of functions: expressive language, conative language and representational language. The expressive language is orientated towards the self, the conative language towards the addressee, and the representational language towards the rest of the reality. Bühler was applying a conceptual framework inherited from Plato: the distinction between first, second and third person- and he recognised three functions according to their orientation to one or other of the three persons.
3.3. Roman Jakobson’s model.
Buhler’s scheme was adopted by the Prague School and later extended by Roman Jakobson, who, on the basis of the six factors of his own model of communication, (addresser, addressee, message, code, contact and context) distinguished six different functions of language:
3.3.1. Expressive or emotive function. It is related to the addresser and where language is used to express the speaker’s feelings. It includes expressions of pain, anger, affection, etc. Swear words or expletives are probably the commonest expressive expressions, although, at a more sophisticated level, there are many literary devices of grammar and vocabulary which can convey the writer’s feelings.
3.3.2. Conative function. It is related to the addressee and where language is used to get the addressee to do what the speaker wants. It tries to produce an answer. It could be, for instance, a command.
3.3.3. Poetic function. It is related to the message itself and where the primary orientation is towards the form of the message. The form of the message becomes more important than the meaning. For instance, literature and poetry. The focus is on the message “for its own sake”.
3.3.4. Metalinguistic function. It is related to the code and where language is used to refer to itself.
3.3.5. Phatic function. It is related to the contact or channel and where language is used to establish and maintain personal relationships. The use of phrases such as “pleased to meet you” and ritual exchanges about health and the weather do not communicate ideas and no factual content is involved. It is a mechanism to keep communication going.
3.3.6. Referential function. It is related to the context and where language is used to convey information about the world around us. It transmits information about anything but the language itself.
4. HALLIDAY’S MACROFUNCTIONS.
The British linguist Michael Halliday believes language exists to fulfil certain human needs. His model of language is called functional and he sees language as a social and cultural phenomenon. Halliday identifies three principal functions of language or macro-functions:
4.1. The ideational function, with which we represent the world to ourselves.
4.2. The interpersonal function, by which we represent ourselves to other people.
4.3. The textual function.
This function emphasizes language as an instrument of communication with which we construct sentences coherently and cohesively. We use language to form texts, whether spoken or written.
These macro-functions can be further analysed into more specific types or micro-functions for the purpose of giving more concrete examples.
5. LINGUISTIC EXPONENTS FOR SOCIALIZING: INITIATING AND MAINTAINING SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS.
Socializing implies the use of certain social functions in everyday life. This main language function is of an extreme importance as it marks our daily relationship with people. When we meet family, friends, neighbours or we get to know people for example at school, church, shops, etc, we frequently use language functions such as: beginning and ending a conversation, complimenting, offering and thanking… among many others.
The vocabulary the pupils need for socialization is organized within a group of communicative functions, arranged in alphabetical order for teaching purposes.
-Asking for advice: May I ask you for some advice? May I ask you to advice me about...? I'd like your opinion about... Could you give me your opinion about...?
-Giving advice: I advice you to...You should... If I were you...You'd better...
I'm sorry. Sorry about that. Excuse me. For...I'm terribly sorry about...
It was my fault that...I do apologize for...beg your pardon. Do forgive me for not...It doesn't matter. Forget it. Never mind. It was really no bother to...that's all right. Don’t worry about.
-Refusing: I'm afraid I can't...I'm sorry but... I'd like but...I'm sorry to say but... I absolutely refuse to...It wasn't my intention but...
-Accepting: I'd like to...!/I'd love to. All right! Wonderful. That's a good idea!
-Regretting: I'm Sorry! I'm sorry I was unable to… I regret that...!
5.3. Attracting attention.
When we want to attract somebody’s attention we can use “Excuse me” or also “I say” (British English): -Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the station? -I say!, Do you know there’s a spider in your hair? (Formal).
5.4. Conversations. Beginning and ending a conversation:
-Introducing people and being introduced: There are several ways of introducing people to each other in English. If you want to speak in a formal way (perhaps to introduce older or more important people to each other), you can say to the first person: -Can I introduce Mr/Mrs X? -May I introduce…? -Have you met…? -I don’t think you’ve met ….-Let me introduce…
If you want to speak in a more informal way one way is just to say the names, pointing at each person as you name them; or you can also say “This is…”. For example, imagine you want to introduce Fiona and Mary to each other. First of all (talking to Fiona), you can point at Mary and say “Mary”, and vice versa, or “This is Mary” and “This is Fiona”.
When people are introduced, they usually say: -Hi (informal) -Hello (friendly) -How do you do? (more formal) -Nice to meet you (formal) -Glad to meet you (formal)
Common formal greetings are Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening. These expressions can also be used when leaving people. The most usual answer to these expressions is to use the same expression. Less formal greetings are Hello or Hi.
-Seasonal Greetings: Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy New Year.
-Farewells: Good bye (formal and informal), Bye, Bye-Bye (used a lot by children) and See you (all of them informal) are used when leaving people. Also, So long!, Cheers!, All the best!, Take care!.
5.5. Meeting People.
-Formal ways of meeting people are How are you?, which is the most common way to ask about someone’s health.
-Common answers are: Very well, thank you or Fine, thank you. Informal enquiries are: How’re things/ How’s everything? -How’s it going?
-Informal answers are: -Not too bad -So-so -Can’t complain -Mustn’t grumble (British English)-It could be worse -Ok -All right.
5.6. Offering, inviting and thanking.
In the social interaction, it is very usual to have the opportunity/need to offer something to somebody or to invite someone to do something: to pay a visit, to have dinner/lunch/coffee or tea/to go to the cinema... to come to your party.... Our students also need to know how to accept or refuse an invitation and how to arrange an appointment or a date.
-Inviting: Do you want a coffee? Would you like to…? Why don’t you come to my..? Do you feel like ..? Do you fancy a…? Would you care for..?
-Offering: Would you like me to …? May I ..? Shall/Will I..? Do you want me to..? Would you allow me to..? It would be a pleasure to ..! I could if you like!
- Thanking: Thanks!, Cheers!, Thank you!, That’s very nice! That’s all right!, you’re welcome! Not at all! Don’t mention it! It’s a pleasure!.
-Asking for permission: May I..? Can I...? Could I...?Do you mind if...? Would you mind if I ...? Do you object me to...?
-Giving permission: You can.... I fully agree that... Don't hesitate to...
-Refusing permission: You can't... I don't allow you to... I forbid you to...
5.8. Proposing a toast.
If British people raise their glasses to say something before drinking, they most often say Cheers! (British English) or Your health! A more formal expression is Your very good health!
When we drink to celebrate an occasion such as a birthday, a wedding or a promotion, we often say Here’s to…! For example: -Here’s to Mark! -Here’s to the happy couple!
5.9. Speaking on the phone:
Hello, Madrid 91... Montse speaking, Can I speak to...? This is..., is that...? Can you put me through… Do you want to leave a message...? Speaking. Hold on. she's out...
-Asking for suggestions: What/where/when shall we go...? What do you think can be done...? What do you suggest I do? Do you have any idea on..?
-Giving suggestions: Why don't we...? How about...?/What about...? I suggest .... Let's...
You should...If I were you....
5.11. Writing a letter or an e-mail.
Without any doubt, letters is another way of communicating with people to establish social relationships. Therefore, the students need to know how to write a letter or an e-mail properly, that is how to address, head and end it in a proper way, according to context, whether be it formal or informal.
-Formal: Dear Sir/Madam; To whom it may concern; yours faithfully.
-Neutral: Dear Mr. X… Yours sincerely.
-Informal: Dear John, My dear friend, Hello John, Hi, sweet, Yours with love, Best wishes..
6. LINGUISTIC EXPONENTS NECESSARY FOR ASKING AND GIVING INFORMATION.
Probably, one of the most important reasons for which we use language is to ask for and give information. Questions and statements are the structures typically used to ask for or convey information. They do not need, however, the use of specific vocabulary, with the exception perhaps of interrogative pronouns. When we do need to teach our pupils specific vocabulary is when we consider people’s reaction to information, i.e. opinion, agreement, interruption and so on. For asking and giving information we need to express the following language micro- functions:
6.1. Asking for clarification:
I mean Could you repeat..? Sorry? Pardon? Say that again, please Do you mind repeating?
6.2. Expressing ability.
I can... I know how to... Are you good at...? I'm able to.../unable to...
6.3. Expressing agreement & disagreement.
I agree with you on/about that. That's all right/OK. I couldn't agree more. I share your opinion. I think so, too. So do I. Neither do I. That's exactly what I think. It's true that...It's true...but. I can see that... but...If I accept that...You must accept that...You are wrong. I don't agree...I totally disagree. I can't accept that. I don't think that's true. I can't share your point of view. I'm not altogether with you on this...I'm not so sure about it...
6.4. Expressing obligation:
Must (internal). Have to (external). It's necessary that...
6.5. Expressing opinion.
-Asking for opinion. What do you think of/about..? What's your opinion of...? Do you believe in....? In your opinion, should we How do you fell about...?How do you see/like...?What are you conclusion...? What are your feelings about..?
-Giving opinion. In my opinion, ...As I see it...From my point of view...As far as I'm concerned... I strongly believe...It's my belief that...I dare say...It seems to me that...
6.6. Expressing preferences.
I prefer something to something. I prefer doing something to doing... I'd rather (+inf) than (+ing). I'd prefer to ...rather than....
6.7. Expressing probability.
100% Certainty I am sure...I am certain.. I certainly believe that...You must...85% Certainty: You will probably...50% Certainty: Maybe, Perhaps, May.. Might.. 30% Certainty: I don’t know if… I am not sure if…Uncertainty: It couldn’t… It shouldn’t…Improbability: It can’t..
7. LINGUISTIC EXPONENTS FOR EXPRESSING THE EMOTIONS AND ATTITUDES OF THE SPEAKER.
The emotive function of language is essential for communication since we all human beings need to express emotional attitudes about the world, or about somebody or something. Some of these attitudes are: pleasure, surprise, interest, satisfaction, sympathy, hope, fear, worry, gratitude, intention, desire.....
-Oh God! -Heavens! -Oh hell! -By Gosh!
7.2. Expressing approval or disapproval:
-Approval: you are quite right to.., I entirely approve of.. I’m in favour of.. I go along with it. Disapproval: I must object to.. We are supposed to… I condemn it; I don’t think much of..
7.3. Expressing desire/ wish:
If only/ I wish+ S. Past= a wish; + P. Perfect= regret; + Would+ inf. = Complaint.
7.4. Expressing feelings:
-Anger: -Beat it. -Get lost. -Go to hell. -Damn you. -Blast you.
-Concern/Worry: I’m worried about…-Fear: I’m afraid of.. I am worried about. -Surprise: What a surprise! How nice! This is a surprise! -It’s surprising! -I am surprised+ that clause: I am surprised that you have come. -Indifference: I don’t care at all. Never mind. -Hope: I hope that I won’t fail; -Sadness: I feel down today; -Regret: I regret that.. I’m sorry, It’s a shame, It’s a pity. -Condolences: I was extremely sorry to hear that/ about..
7.5. Expressing intentions:
I’m going to/ will: I intend to.. I’m thinking of… Let’s meet… I will definitely..
7.6. Expressing likes/ dislikes:
-Likes: Like, love, enjoy, to be fond or, keen on, crazy about, etc.
-Dislikes: Don’t like, dislike, hate, loathe, detest, can’t stand, can’t bear, I’m fed up, I’m sick of.. -Indifference: Don’t mind, don’t care about..
There are many other ways to express emotional attitudes as well as exponents. Here we have just given a brief account of some of them.
8. THE FUNCTIONS IN SECOND LANGUAGE TEACHING: A REFLECTION.
The idea of a language function is that it describes what is done in the language. If we wish to invite someone we use the language of inviting. We might say: Would you like to come to the cinema? Or How about coming to the cinema? And there are a great many other ways of doing the same thing. Inviting is a language function, and for every function there are a number of different ways, in which the function can be expressed.
Traditional syllabuses based on structures and forms were too detailed and too rigorous, for the sake of completeness and to provide a smooth transition from one item to the next. The syllabus designers were concerned not to leave out any of the bits of the system. Learners considered that the items of language were of no real use, and were discouraged because they felt they were making little or no progress.
Recently, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the functions of language. It has been suggested that traditional syllabuses and materials failed to teach the use of language; what they seemed to be doing was teaching the grammar of the language without giving the students knowledge of, or practice in, how it was used, while functions are areas of language where the language is actually used to do things.
However, we cannot organise a functional syllabus, that is a syllabus listing which functions and which of their exponents are to be taught: for example, function = inviting; exponents = Would you like to come…?, How about coming …?, etc), without taking into account the grammatical aspects, because the expression of functional language is only possible through the use of the grammar of the language, for this is central to language use. As the grammar is learnt so the students will also be shown how to use it to perform functions that are relevant to their needs. Both grammatical items and functional realisation must be taught side by side.
To conclude, it should be noted that the exponents of some functions are merely phrases which can be learnt by heart: Cheers!: The exponent of “proposing a toast” is a fixed expression, while other functions relate to total grammatical systems and require an enormous amount of time and effort to master, for example, exponents of “asking”. Therefore, this is something we have to take into account if we are going to take a functional syllabus as a base.
As the exponents of language to express the different functions have become so common, sometimes it is better to be “original” to personalize the situation: e.g. At someone’s death: Saying nothing to express sympathy, which has already become a formula.
WILKINS, D.A. Notional Syllabuses. OUP. 1976.
WIDDOWSON, H.G. Teaching Language as Communication. OUP. 1978.
HALLIDAY, M.A.K. Explorations in the Functions of Language. London. Edward Arnold 1975.