Pragmatics studies language in use. Following Saussure, language in use is speech (cf. langue and parole). Large stretches of speech are called discourse.

The use of language is associated with language functions. By function linguists mean the role and purpose of the language. Sometimes the term ‘function’ is understood in a more narrow way. In this sense, the term determines a role of a language element in syntax (the function of the subject, predicate, or object) and in morphology (the function of a form, the function of the suffix, etc.). Correspondingly, the term ‘function’ refers to an element position in a construction or the meaning of a form or construction.

Two language functions are most widely recognized – communicative and cognitive (formulating thoughts), though there have been many attempts to establish more detailed classifications of language functions. The Austrian psychologist and linguist Karl Buhler singled out three language functions manifested in any speech event: expressive function (relating with the text producer), appealing function (focusing on the receptor), and referential (representation) function (representing objects and phenomena, i.e. the subject matter).219 Yuri Stepanov also based his language functions on the semiotic principle. He designated the nominative, syntactic, and pragmatic functions as universal properties of the language corresponding to the three aspects of semiotics – semantics, syntax, and pragmatics.220

The question of differentiating between language functions and speech functions has so far been disputable. Some linguists do not discriminate language functions from speech functions.221 Others stress the difference between them.222 While language functions are universal and constant, speech functions are typical of a certain speech event; they are temporary, characterized by definite language elements. Language functions are realized through speech.

The most recognizable classification of speech functions belongs to Roman Jakobson.223 He distinguished six functions: referential (informative), expressive (emotive), conative (voluntative), phatic (creating and maintaining social contact), metalingual (describing language), and poetic (aesthetic).

Following Halliday, translation theorists added one more function to the list – interpersonal function, which implies the speaker’s intervention in the use of language and the expression of attitude.224

Obviously, each discourse has more than one speech functions. As a matter of fact, it combines a number of functions but one of them is always predominant.


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