Human beings communicate through language, a structured system that allows us to share information and fulfills various functions according to the communicative needs of each individual.
Language functions form a complex communication process that, to be analyzed, involves other areas of study of great importance such as linguistics, communication and even psychology, among others.
Therefore, language functions go beyond the action of transmitting and receiving an oral or written message, and this is because communication must fulfill the purpose of sharing information , opinions, feelings, desires, orders, among others .
The value of language and its functions is of vital importance in order to express ourselves and understand what others want to convey or make known to us. Communication and language go beyond issuing a message, they also seek to affect and generate a reaction in the receiver.
Jacobson and language functions
Roman Jacobson was a theoretical researcher who conducted important studies on language and communication based on other areas of research that, in one way or another, are involved in the process of communication and language. One of his most prominent articles is “Linguistics and Poetics”, (1960).
The main purpose of Jacobson’s studies was to determine the poetic nature of language , which is why he gave great importance to the different forms used in language to express a message, idea, feeling or opinion. In this sense, he had to distance himself from Russian formalism, whose tendency was inclined towards social issues.
From the study that Jacobson conducted on the factors that make up the communication (reference, sender, receiver, code, channel, message), he was able to define six different language functions that adapt to the needs or communicative intentions of individuals.
These functions were referred to as referential, emotive, appellative, phreatic, meta linguistic and poetic, which complemented those that had already been proposed by the German linguist Karl Bühler, classified as symbolic or representative function, symptomatic or expressive function and indicative or appellative function.
The referential function is also known as representative function, informative function, denotative function or cognitive function. For his part, Karl Bühler classified it as a symbolic function.
This function is based on the use of language to refer to all the external and proper factors of the communicative process , which allow verifying the objectivity and veracity of the message and its relationship with the referent and context.
The referential function is the most predominant in the communicative act , its purpose is to transmit and publicize some reality or context data without the issuer giving his opinion in this regard.
Likewise, it is characterized by exposing an objective content , making use of declarative or assertive sentences, the use of the third grammatical person and conjugated verbs in an indicative way.
Therefore, this type of language function is usually used in informative, journalistic and scientific texts. This is because the purpose is to disclose information about some reality data, but without adding any subjective assessment.
For example, scientific texts are intended to provide knowledge through clear descriptions and accurate and verifiable data. Other examples that can be mentioned are giving time to another person or indicating an address, in both cases reference is made to reality.
The emotional function, also called as an expressive or symptomatic function, is that which is centered on the moods, feelings and the “I” of the sender . In this sense, the issuer is the element of communication that stands out from the rest and that uses previously known meanings, such as effective.
It is characterized by making use of verbal forms in the first person, subjunctive verbs, exclamatory sentences and interjections to express a feeling, emotion, desire, prejudice, opinion or preferences of the issuer, therefore the message is loaded with subjectivity.
For example, “What a beautiful night!”, “I feel great today!”, “I really miss you!” These messages from the sender express a feeling towards something in particular.
“It’s the best coffee I’ve had on this vacation!”, This expression denotes a positive opinion. On the other hand, “Oh! What a headache” expresses physical pain.
As you can see, in all these examples the sender exposes a feeling or sensitivity in his message that predominates before the other elements of the communication.
The appellate or conative function is that in which the issuer expects to generate a reaction in the receiver and influence his behavior. For example, when the sender asks a question, he expects the receiver to give him an answer. Therefore, this function focuses on the receiver.
The appellative function is characterized by being imperative, making use of interrogative and exhortative sentences, that is, indicating an order, a threat, a request or favor, among others. Also, the second grammatical person is used, the use of vocative and imperative verbal mode.
The appellative function is used to use in colloquial language, in advertisements or in political contexts in which extensive use of evaluative adjectives is made and seeks to influence the behaviors of others.
For example, “Please, can you open the sale?”, “Read the text and answer the questions below,” “Look at me when I talk to you!”, “Finish dinner and go to bathe.”
The phasic function or relational function is one that focuses on the communication channel used by the sender and the receiver, in order to verify its operation and initiate, prolong or interrupt the communication.
The information shared is composed of messages devoid of content, but which seek to ensure the proper functioning of the communication channel.
In this sense, the phasic function of language is not precisely to inform , but to verify that the communication channel works correctly between the sender and the receiver.
For example, the following words, muffins or phrases are used to confirm that the channel is working or that the caller is paying attention, “Hello?”, “Ok”, “Do you know?”, “Say”, “Of course “,” Naturally, “” Agree, “” As I was saying, “” Sure, “among others.
Meta linguistic function
The meta linguistic function cares about the language code. In this case, both the sender and the receiver reflect and analyze the language in which they communicate, generally, in order to clarify any doubt, make a suggestion or correction, even offer a definition.
Therefore, extensive use is made of quotation marks, for example, ‘”He” is a pronoun and “he” is an article, “” Grandma, what does “unbeliever” mean? “I do not understand what they are talking about, what Is the “numerology”? ‘, among others.
The poetic or aesthetic function of language is based on the form of the message , on the literary resources and on the styles used to place greater emphasis on the information transmitted, it is customary to use in literary works.
The poetic function of language is responsible for beautifying and making more fun the way in which a message is transmitted so that its impact is greater.
The main incentive of the linguist Roman Jacobson to study and determine the functions of language was precisely the poetic and aesthetic function that surrounds the message, which gives it a less conventional and traditional form, but more stylistic and rich in terms of sensitivity and images that you want to transmit.
In this sense, the message emits and expresses a feeling and intention in particular, sometimes even more complex than expected, hence there is extensive use of descriptions, adjectives and literary resources to enrich the language and its communicative function.
Poems, rhymes, puns and sayings are examples of the poetic function of language, however, this does not mean that this function is limited only to the literary area, it can also be used on any occasion. The important thing is that the message catches the attention of the receiver and generates a reaction.
“He who marries, wants house,” “In the house of a blacksmith, a knife,” “There is no harm that for good does not come,” “His lips are as red as a rose, but his words are as hard as a rock ”,“ Love is a remedy for the soul ”,“ His gaze has a spell, do not look at me because it scares me ”, among others.