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FUNCTIONS OF LANGUAGE BY ROMAN JAKOBSON According to Jakobson_ we by pengxiang

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According to Jakobson, we can divide the functions of language into six
factors which are required for communication: (1) context, (2) addresseer
(3) addressee, (4) contact, (5) common code, (6) message.

A message is sent by the addreesser (a sender, or enunciator) to the
addressee ( a receiver, or enunciatee). The message can not be understood
outside of a context. “A Code” should be common fully or at least partially
to the addresser and addressee. A contact which is physical channel and
phsychological connection between addresser and addressee is necessary for
both of them to enter and stay in communication.


Each of these six factors has a different function of language. The diversity
in these functions is a result of a different hierarchical order of functions.
Shortly , these six functions of verbal communication can be analyzed as


It is denotative,cognitive function which is oriented toward the „context‟. To
show things or facts, the refential function is the most obvious function of
language: for example: “The earth is round.”, “Water boils at 100 degrees.”

It is also known as “expressive function”. This function focuses on the
„addresser‟. This function comes out when we want to express our emotions
although we don‟t speak to give an information. In this function, we
communicate for ourselves more than other people who hear us or not. For
example: the interjections, which are words or phrases used to express
sudden surprise, pleasure or annoyance such as : “Bah!” , “Oh!” , “Yuck!”
“Ouch” ,”Aie”. They are not components but equivalent of sentences.
Moreover, as Roman Jakobson‟s example in “Linguistics and Poetics” ,
only from the changes in the sound shape of the same two words ( like “this
evening” ), we can make a list of forty or more emotional situations by
diversifying its expressive tint.


The conative function is an orientation toward „addressee‟. This function
finds it purest grammatical expression in vocative and imperative
sentences, and it helps us to make people do something and it includes
orders and prayers. For example: “Drink!” or “Go Away”.


The phatic function which sets for „contact‟ establishes, prolongs or
discontinues the communication. We use this function to know whether
channel works or whether the contact is still there. Our purpose in this
function firstly to maintain the contact with the person we are talking to.
For example: “Hello!” “Are you listening?” “Do you hear me?”.

It is also the first verbal function which is acquired by infants before they
are able to send or receive informative communication.


„Code‟ performs the “ metalingual function” which is used whenever the
addresser and the addressee need to check whether they use same code and
when the language is used to speak about language. For example: “What do
you mean by “krill”?” , “ What is plucked?”. In the process of language
learning, the acqusition of mother tongue includes wide use of metalingual
actions; for example aphasia may be described as a loss of capability for
metalingual actions.

The poetic function which is orientation toward “message” and “the focus
on the message for its own sake”. This function includes more than poetry,
linguistics cannot limit itself just to the field of poetry. When we say “John
and Margery” instead of “Margery and John” or when we say “horrible
Harry” instead of “ terrible Harry , dreadful Harry” which have same
meaning, we use the poetic function of language.

When we analyze the functions of language for a given unit such as a word,
a text, or an image, we specify which functions are present or absent, to
which class or type this unit belongs and which characteristics these
functions have regarding hierarchical and other relations that can operate
between them. We can complement Jakbson‟s communication model of
factors by a corresponding scheme of the functions:

    Factors of communication and functions of language

      1     Context Message Referential
      2    Addresser Message Emotive
      3    Addressee Message Conative
      4     Contact Message   Phatic
      5      Code Message Metalingual
      6     Message Message   Poetic

                  TO THE ADVERTISEMENTS

The poster advertisement “Fake hurts real” is a part of advertising of
ADIDAS shoes company. When we talk about the message that
advertisement conveys , we also should mention about the stages it has to

In proper analysis of advertisements, we start by determining whether each
of the functions of language is present or absent. If you find more than one
function as present then we can create simple hierarchy between them by
identifying dominant function.

In this advertisement, we see phatic function which aims to draw attention
of receiver. The company tries to take attention to the imitations and their
harm to health by giving wounded naked foot with sticking plaster on it
,which is similar to Adidas original logo. Secondly, the advertisement
convinces people with the aim not to buy imitations, which fulfills the
“conative function” of language. It also appeals to a reason (referential
function) which results in injuries on human foot. Two opposite words are
given together “fake and real” to intensify the attraction. In the
advertisement “fake hurts real” gives some associations (referential
function) to the addressee :

1) if you buy imitations, your health that is symbolized by the „real‟ is in
danger , 2) if you buy Adidas which is in orthopaedic shoes category for the
ad , your foot will be protected.

                          HUGO BOSS PARFUME


The poster advertisement above is part of advertising of Hugo Parfume
Company. In this ad, the message (poetic function) is given by connotations
of parfume with different qualities. Closeleness of “man “ and “woman” to
each other can be associated with „loyalty‟, „sexual promiscuity‟, „sexual
potencity‟, and „attraction‟. The motto “Find out why harmony is
overrated” fulfills phatic function in which the product plays a role in
sexual relationship.

The names of parfume “XY” and “XX” refers to the “unknown” . In other
words, there is an unknown in the bottles which is waiting to be discovered.
The intention of the message convinces ( the conative function) the
addressee that this discovery can be acquired just by the combination of
“XY” with “XX”. The CONTEXT (referential function) contains a verbal
pairing which is presented by “ for him” and “for her”. In other words, the
addressees are not “they” but “he” and “she”. This difference is also shown
with the different colour of two parfume bottles (blue and yellow). Two
different colours in the background behind „man‟ and „woman‟ also refer
to the hidden meaning given by the addresser (emotive function). Moreover,
the ringside in the background has the connotations such as „boundaries‟ ,
„limits‟ and „restrictions‟ in human nature, the colour of the ringside “red”
associates with the „passion‟ and the parfume gives the MESSAGE (poetic
function) that “with passion” the parfume gives to the addressee , the
receiver can break the „borders‟ and „limits‟ which results in poetic
function (the effect).

The poster advertisement is one of the advertising of Kent cigarette
company. The ad gives a paradoxical MESSAGE. An unhealthy product is
advertised with the high images of scientists and educators in minds. In this
advertisement, the oddness attracts attention (the phatic function) because,
ironically scientists and educators are shown as if they smoke this cigarette.
As a result, connotations of this product can be associated with „power‟,
„intelligency‟, „knowledge‟, „science‟, „high statue‟. This advertisement
convinces ( the conative function) the ADDRESSEE that if this cigarette is
smoken , it will give a chance to the receiver to get these qualities (the poetic
function, the effect). „For good smoking taste‟, it seems reasonable to smoke
“KENT” which is supported with an appearance of a man who is smart,
good looking and attractive. The harms of the unhealthy product are
covered by higher qualities of educated people. Moreover, the huge building
behind the man, which is higher than the other buildings around,
symbolizes the capitalism in America which is under the control of
powerful group. The context has a reason (the referential function) that
smoking this cigarette can provide the addreesser an opportunity to be a
member of this group. This advertisement contains a number of oppositions
such as high/low, educated/uneducated, rich/poor and higher status/lower
status which attracts attention and makes the phatic function occur.

This advertisement directly shows the combination between phatic function
and the other functions especially in „cause‟ and „effect‟ (poetic function)
relationship. The MESSAGE “Reserved for drunk people” is orientated
directly to the ADDRESSEE, and shows that if a drunk driver drives a car
(cause), it may result in “accident” (effect), in other words, the result
(poetic function) is „already‟ known which is receiver‟s death or
punishment. The parking place in the advertisement includes a tree in the
middle which symbolizes that driving will be end with a “crash”. The tree
in the middle attracts attention (the phatic function) because it
differentiates the place from being a normal parking area.

The ADDRESSER is highly concerned about what could happen to drunk
drivers (the expressive function), also the utterance explains an objective
truth (referential function). The advertising message clearly aims to give a
moral value. Morever, it shows this with the possible consequence-the
adreessee‟s accident in very striking way, which contains the conative and
poetic function. We can also find the „conative function‟ behind the hidden
imperative meaning which indirectly orders drivers not to drive a car when
they are not sober.

This is one of the series advertisement of NIKE shoes company. The
MESSAGE (poetic function) directly includes a „conative function‟ which is
oriented toward ADDRESSEE by an imperative sentence “JUST DO IT”.
The image of a child peeing against a wall can be associated with
“freedom”, “ independence” , “ out of borders of civilized world”. It
convinces (the conative function) that “ you are free in your life, so do
whatever you want !”. Moreover, it is important to emphazise that the child
in the advertisement is black. The CONTEXT “ JUST DO IT” also shows
it is not just for white people, it is also for black ones to get their
independence, again it has a connotation of “freedom” or „out of others‟
control‟. However, ironically the dog near the child refers to the
comparison betweeen them. Dog uses nature to pee especially walls or
trees, which indirectly has a MESSAGE that you dont need to live in a
concept of civilized world.

The advertisement draws attention (phatic function) by providing many
oppositions: the skin colour of the child is “black” whereas dog is “white”,
and this is an advertisement of well-known shoe brand NIKE, but the little
child has no shoes to wear. The ad draws the ADRESSEE into acting as s/he
wants ( the conative and referential functions). This combination of two
functions is clearly the most important, and the others are subordinate.

The MESSAGE (poetic function) in this advertisement is used for a
“warning”. The message has a „conative function‟ which orders that water
should be used as much as it is needed , the rest shouldn‟t be wasted. This
function consists main structure of the advertisement in the hierarchical
order. The association is given by an image of a bench which has only small
seat to sit on. It symbolizes that you should use your part and you
shouldn‟t pass the other side which “the others” need. It also gives
relationship between cause (phatic) and effect (poetic). If you (also can be
thought as „self‟ ) use water more than you should (cause), the inevitable
effect is that the “others” cannot find anything left for themselves, which is
associated with the empty side of the bench. Emphasize on possible
consequence fulfills the emotive and poetic funtion. The image of an
incomplete bench draws attention ( the phatic function) of the
ADDRESSEE by the sender.

Finally, as we see above, the main representations of linguistic functions are
based on the sign model which functions through its relations with the
sender ( addresser), the receiver ( addressee), and the referent (context). As
Jakobson points out that the context is somewhat ambiguous, in other
words, it can be interpreted in more than one way as we infer from all these

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