Functional theories of grammar

The Functional Discourse Grammar (FDG ) is a newer theory of grammar. By leading representatives of Functional Grammar (FG) was developed in the year 2000, especially in Amsterdam in further development of the FG. On the status of this grammar theory, there are different opinions: some consider them only as a further development of the Functional Grammar by Simon C. Dik ( 1978, 1997) without independent status, while others and also the main exponent of FDG view them due to many differences as independent grammatical theory " FDG diverges from FG in so many ways did by now It Should Be Considered a theory in its own right, and it HAS BEEN Recognized As examined. " ( Hengeveld / Mackenzie 2008: xi).

  • 7.1 primary source
  • 7.2 Further reading

On the origin of the theory

The beginnings of FDG go back to the lecture " The architecture of a Functional Discourse Grammar" by K. Hengeveld in 2000. Here, the term " discourse " was the expression of increased awareness, better integrating phenomena of discourse act in the theory of FG. The most important aspect of this conference contribution was the distinction of three hierarchically organized levels of interpersonal, the representative and the morphosyntactic level ( see below).

In the following years, further research on the basic idea of this work (see Mackenzie / Gómez González in 2004, Groot / Hengeveld 2005, García Velasco / Rijkhoff 2008). K. Hengeveld and J. Lachlan Mackenzie presented the new theory eventually published in 2008 in an extensive introduction before (hereinafter " HM" for short).

The term " Functional Discourse Grammar"

The term " Functional Discourse Grammar" "functional " is the functionalist approach within linguistics, the FDG shares with the FG. The essence of this approach is that grammar and syntax in particular are not an autonomous area, but as dependent on the area of ​​language function, that is, semantics and pragmatics apply.

Typical functional theories are in addition to the FG the Role and Reference Grammar and Systemic Functional Grammar. The classic formal theory the opposite direction is the generative theory.

" Discourse " means then, that for this theory of Diskursakt ( " discourse act" ) is the smallest unit of linguistic analysis and not the set ( HM: 4).

Here, the FDG is not simply a functional grammar theory, but as "a form- oriented function- to- form approach" ( HM: 38 f ) - " form- oriented" because they only produce such material on the interpersonal and representative level consider that get a morphosyntactic and phonological form; "Function -to -form " because it will first look at the communicative function and only then examined their individual linguistic forms. This provided the FDG between extremely formal and extremely functional theories.

Relation to Functional Grammar

With the FG FDG shares initially a basic linguistic insight, which language is a structured entity that acts as a means of communication between human individuals. Furthermore, both theories draw a desire to " maximum typological neutrality " of ( HM: xi).

On the other hand, there are considerable differences: This involves on the part of FDG distinguishing an interpersonal and a representative level as an independent linguistic areas, and also the emphasis on the independence of morphosyntax and phonology in the form of autonomous description areas. Finally, the description of the direction is " top-down " specifically for FDG.

The main difference is in accordance with HM (p. 37 f ) in the way, as a model of the flow of language, as will be presented in two theories: According stand at the beginning of the model of FG, the choice of linguistic units. In the further process of communication these semantic predicates ( in the logical sense ) would further differentiated, those terms would be allocated. This syntactic functions and then pragmatic functions are then assigned. Because of this order pragmatics in FG seems to act as an appendix to the semantics and syntax, which goes against the principles of functionalism. In contrast, in the FDG stand pragmatics, in the form of interpersonal level, at the beginning of linguistic communication and is so far much better integrated.

Basic features of the theory

The focus of the theory of FDG is a model of the formation and development of linguistic utterances ( HM: 3-25 ). This linguistic and extra-linguistic aspects are considered, even if the primary interest of the former is true. The model distinguishes between

  • Levels (for example the representative level)
  • Components ( a grammatical and three extra-linguistic, see below)
  • Processes ( for example, the coding morpho )
  • And kits of basic units ( " primitive ").

The four levels of description

The four levels ( HM: 14-18) are all linguistically, are hierarchical and also individual languages ​​, which means that the pragmatic and semantic categories have no universal validity.

  • On the interpersonal level (" interpersonal level", HM: 15, 46-127 ) is the communicative situation of the discourse act including persons involved in the discourse, communicative participation certificates, in the center. Also, important are the basic unit of " moves" that includes one or more discourse acts which illocutionary intention and communicative content.
  • At the representative level (" representative level", HM: 15 f, 128-281 ) are referred to the linguistic units in terms of semantic categories, such as propositional content, type of ( semantically defined ) situations ( " states of affairs " ), one or more properties.

These first two levels of the levels of the formulation ( " formulation" ), where the linguistic unit takes the form of speech.

  • On the morphosyntactic level ( " morphosyntactic level", HM: 16 f, 282-420 ) is the linguistic unit broken down into syntactic constituents, the largest unit of linguistic expression ( "linguistic expression" ) and over by him from the analysis runs down part of sentences and phrases to words.
  • The phonological level (" phonological level", HM: 17f, 421-462 ) comprises the segmental and suprasegmental representation of the linguistic unit.

These last two levels are the levels of encoding ( "encoding " ), on which the linguistic unit is encoded in the linguistic system of signs.

The four components

In addition to the grammatical component is available in the FDG three extra-linguistic ( HM: 6-12):

  • The first extra-linguistic is the conceptual component. It includes not only the communicative intention, but also psychological reactions to certain events in the outside world, but only those that lead to an intention.
  • In the contextual component of the second extra-linguistic component, the utterance is viewed in the context of the discourse act that is considered a " multifaceted " ( HM: 9).
  • The third extra-linguistic variable is the output component. In it, the end products of linguistic expressions are converted into an output, which is meant that they are implemented in the case of oral speech into phonetic sequences in the case of written speech in orthographic sequences. The phonetic sequences also body gestures can come that are constitutive alone for sign languages ​​. Here occurs a transformation of the digital to analog character. This means that linguistic signs are categorical clearly not always, but more likely to be statistically approximate.

Example of a formalization by FDG

Considered the whole, this linguistic model is an attempt to capture the entire complex process of linguistic communication analytically. Typical functional is the order of the pragmatics ( interpersonal level) about the semantics (representative level) to syntax ( morphosyntactic level), which clearly goes in this escalation on the model of predecessor FG.

This is demonstrated in the following example:

This formalized case can be explained as follows: On the interpersonal plane (ie, 1 ) the constituent is characterized as something that has a referential function (R). In addition, the speaker of it is believed that he is identifiable for the listener / reader ( id). At the representative level (RE, 2 ) the constituent is characterized as one of the more than (m ) refers to an individual with the property (f) and in terms of the position of the speakers ( prox ). The property ( f) is specified by the nominal (N) lexeme / ː nə bənɑ /. On the morpho plane ( ME 3 ), the constituent characterized as a noun phrase ( NP) from a grammatical word (GW) and a nominal word (NW ) is composed. At this level, an operator is introduced, here characterized by "this", which acts as a placeholder for the syntactic function. The representative Operator ( m) is here in the morphosyntactic operator Pl ( ural ) converted, which occurs twice, because he has to be expressed on both constituents of the noun phrase. On the phonological level (PE, 4 ), the corresponding plural forms are introduced, the noun by adding the corresponding Pluralsuffixes, the determiner by the selection of a Suppletivform. This level consists here of a phonological phrase (PP), which consists of two phonological words ( PW).

Typological adequacy

As the Functional Grammar so raises the FDG claim to allow the description of many typologically different languages ​​( " typological adequacy "). To print the typological claim comes on the one in the English subtitle "a typologically -based theory of language structure", on the other hand in over 160 languages ​​, which are processed in the document material of the HM.

The theoretical expression of FDG, as the authors acknowledge, owe much of the typological research. At the same time they understand their theory as a frame of reference for further individual typological research. FDG could thereby act as a "basic linguistic theory", as R. M. W. Dixon ( 1997: 128-138 ) has called for the typological work, even if this known typologist have understood more including a modified traditional grammar. Since the theory of FDG is not just descriptive- descriptive, but also has a rich analytical potential, it is an ideal candidate for this role to a "basic linguistic theory". At the same time the theory of FDG is sure to be further developed, especially in recording typological findings.


It is envisaged by Hengeveld and Mackenzie ( HM, p.41 f ) understood as a structured linguistic framework, can be formulated and tested within which linguistic hypotheses. In more practical ambitions, this theory is particularly suitable for the language- comparative work, be it for typological and contact linguistic inquiry, whether for contrastive comparisons.