(by Nick Christodoulou)
Several attempts have been made to catalogue the different functions of language, and to chart child language development in terms of the increasing range of these functions to be found in the growing child’s repertoire. Michael Halliday’s taxonomy is documented below:- Instrumental: Language used to fulfil a need on the part of the speaker. Directly concerned with obtaining food, drink and comfort.
- Regulatory: Language used to influence the behaviour of others. Concerned with persuading / commanding / requesting other people to do things you want.
- Interactional: Language used to develop social relationships and ease the process of interaction. Concerned with the phatic dimension of talk.
- Personal: Language used to express the personal preferences and identity of the speaker. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Here I am!’ function – announcing oneself to the world.
- Representational: Language used to exchange information. Concerned with relaying or requesting information.
- Heuristic: Language used to learn and explore the environment. Child uses language to learn; this may be questions and answers, or the kind of running commentary that frequently accompanies children’s play.
- Imaginative: Language used to explore the imagination. May also accompany play as children create imaginary worlds, or may arise from storytelling.
Should you want further reading on language acquisition, these websites are very helpful and explain all the relevant hypotheses and theories: