Sei sulla pagina 1di 40


Functional Grammar:
An Overview
 Functionalism
 Scale and Category Grammar
 Systemic Grammar
 Functional Grammar
Origin: Functionalism
 Vilem Mathesius (1882-1945)
 Article: ‘On the potentiality of the phenomena of language’
 Non historical approach to the study of language
 Russian linguist: Roman Osipovich Jakobson (1896-1938)
 Prague School linguist
 More recently:
 Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday:

the most influential figure

The Prague School:
View on Language
 ‘thephonological, grammatical and
semantic structures of a language
are determined by the functions they
have to perform in the societies in
which they operate’ (Lyons,
J.R. Firth (1890-1960) Bronislaw
Malinowski (1884-1942) : Their
 Much inspired by Bronislaw Malinowski
 Malinowski argues: ‘language is not a
self-contained system – the extreme
structuralist view – but is entirely
dependent on the society in which it is
 To him, language is dependent on
society in two ways:
 Language evolves in response to the
specific demands of the society in
which it is used
 Its use is entirely context-dependent:
‘utterance and situation are bound up
inextricably with each other and the
context of situation is indispensable
for the understanding of the words’
 He argues that meaning must be
studied with reference to an analysis of
functions of language in any given
 Three major functions:
 Pragmatic Function
 Magical Function
 Narrative Function
 J.R.Firth: uses Saussurean notion of
 Enumerated set of choices in a
specific context
 Any item will have two types of
 Context of other possible choices in the
 Context in which the system itself occurs
Michael Kirkwood Halliday
“A functional approach to language means, first of all,
investigating how language is used: trying to find out
what are the purposes that language serves for us, and
how we are able to achieve these purposes through
speaking and listening, reading and writing. But it also
means more than this. It means seeking to explain the
nature of language in functional terms: seeing whether
language itself has been shaped by use, and if so, in
what ways ? how the form of language has been
determined by the function it has evolved to serve”
(Halliday, Explorations in the Functions of Language, 1973, p. 7)
Halliday’s Theory of
 Two basic observations
1. Language is part of the social semiotic
The whole culture is meaningful.
Constructed out of a series of systems of signs
Language is one of those systems
Reflects aspects of situations
2. People talk to each other
As a social system, language is subject
to two types of variation:
Variation according to user
Variation according to use
(register variation)
 Speech situation or context
relevant aspects: field, tenor, mode
Field of discourse: what is going on
Tenor of discourse: who is taking part
in the social action
Mode of discourse: the role that the
text or language itself plays
Major Functions of

 Ideational Function: reflecting on

 Interpersonal function: acting on
 Textual function: language user’s
text-forming potential
Register Code
 Concept of text variety that allows
us to make sensible predictions
about the kind of language which will
occur in a given situation, that is ,
associated with a particular field,
tenor, and mode.
 Code acts as a filter through which
the culture is transmitted to a child
Macro/Micro Functions
 Macrofunctions: ideational,
interpersonal, textual
 Microfunction: asking for things,
making commands
Scale and Category
 Halliday: 1950s-1960s
 Developed on the insights derived by J.R
Firth (1890-1960)
viewed meaning as the function of a
linguistic item in its context of use
axes: paradigmatic, syntagmatic
 In Scale and Category Grammar
language is analysed as an
interrelationship between three (or
four) scales and four categories
 The original scale included:
 Rank: system of levels or ranks,
going from the ‘highest’ rank of
sentence, through clause, phrase, (or
group) and word down to morpheme
“hierarchical relations”
 Exponence: relationship between a
level of linguistic analysis and an actual
example , or exponent of this level (an
example, an actual realisation)
 Delicacy: determining the degree of
detail in a grammatical analysis
 Depth: measuring the degree of
complexity of the analysis
 Category: a class of items with the
same function; one of the
characteristics of such a class
 Class: classification of sentences:
simple, compound, complex
 System: choices in any particular
area, person system
 Unit: five units: sentence, clause,
group, word, and morpheme
 Structure: free or bound relationship
within a unit
Systemic Functional
 Attempts to combine purely structural
information with overtly social factors in a
single integrated description
 The basic idea is that any act of
communication realises a set of choices:
thus e.g. the utterance She went out among
others, the choice of a declarative structure.
Each choice is at a certain level in a
hierarachy of ranks: the choice of
declarative is at clause level. (cont)
It is also related to other choices on a scale of
delicacy (detail of grammatical description): the
choice of interrogative instead of declarative
would entail a further choice between polar
interrogative and wh-interrogative.
Each individual set of choices forms a system,
declarative and interrogative form or are part of
A grammar will accordingly describe the systems
of a language, the relations between them, and
the ways in which they are realized, to a level of
detail at which all remaining choices are
between open set of lexical units.
Systemic Grammar: basic

 Deeply concerned with the purposes of

language use
 Metafunctions
 Text analysis
 Coherence, cohesion
Functional Grammar 1985
 ‘interpretation of grammatical patterns in terms of
configurations of functions’
 Particularly relevant in the analysis of text
 Text: ‘everything that is said or written’
“ natural grammar”
S.C Dik’s model
Halliday’s view: language has two major functions,
metafunctions: ideational “content” function
Interpersonal function
Functional Grammar 1985
 An account of clause structure in which
functions are distinguished separately on three
level: Bill left yesterday
 Bill has the syntactic function of subject and the
semantic function of agent; it might also have
the pragmatic function of theme. Semantic
functions are associated with predicates in the
lexicon (agent with leave) and the nucleus of a
clause (represented by Bill left) may also be
extended by satellites (yesterday); syntactic
functions are then assigned to its elements;
then pragmatic functions.
Basic Tenets of
Functional Grammar
 ‘a theory of meaning as choice’
 Clause analysis
 Theme:' the element which serves as
the point of departure of the
message, it is with which the clause
is concerned’
 Rheme: the rest of the message is
referred to
Theme Rheme
Thomas gave Sophie that Easter egg
That Easter egg was given to Sophie by
Sophie was given that Easter egg
by Thomas
At Easter Tomas went to see Sophie and
Very soon they were eating Easter eggs
Overarching Functions of Language

Ideational Interpersonal Textual

Clauses of Clauses of Clauses of

Representation Exchange Message
 Mood: relationship between the
grammatical subject of the clause
and the finite element of the verbal
 Residue: remainder of the clause

any indicative clause (which has a

subject and a finite verb) will have a
mood structure
 Subject and finite make up the
proposition of the clause
 The part that can be affirmed,
denied, questioned, and negotiated
by speakers
 Locating the subject of a declarative
clause: Tag
 That teapot was given to your aunt
 The finite element further enhances
the proposition as something to
negotiate by (1) giving it a primary
tense and (2) a modality
 Operators: temporal/modal
 The duke has given that teapot away
 Has the duke given that teapot away
 Who gave you that teapot
 Why were you given that teapot

The Imperative
 Subject often missing Go away
 Ellipsis
Clause Residue elements
Predicator: only one eating her curds
and whey (Little Miss Muffet sat on a
Complements: one or two, ‘anything
that could have functioned as the
subject in the clause, but which does
Adjuncts: upto 7, those elements which
do not have the potential of being used
as subjects
Halliday lists three types
of process
 Materialprocess: process of doing,
actor, goal
 Clause Transitive: when both are present
 Clause Intransitive: when only actor
Material Process

Actor Goal

Agent Patient
Mental Process
feeling, thinking
Mental Process

Sensor Phenomenon

Experiencer Experienced

Stative Dynamic
Relational Process
processes of being
six types
Relational Process

Intensive Circumstantial Possessive

‘x is a’ ‘x is at a’ ‘x has a’

Mental Process

Sensor Phenomenon

Experiencer Experienced

Stative Dynamic
for your patience and