ENG 116: Language Functions for Children in Early Years.

Halliday (1973) as cited by Christodoulou (2009) identifies seven functions that language has for children in their early years. Children get motivated to acquire language because it serves certain purposes or functions for them. The first four functions help the child to satisfy physical, emotional and social needs. They are: instrumental, regulatory, interactional, and personal functions. The other three functions are heuristic, imaginative, and representational, and these ones help the child to come to terms with his or her environment. Let us examine them severally:

1. *Instrumental Function*
We use this function of language to fulfil a need on the part of the speaker. In language acquisition process, a child uses this function to express his/her needs. This function is directly concerned with obtaining food, drink and comfort.

2. *Regulatory Function*
Language used to influence the behaviour of others. It deals with persuading, commanding, requesting other people to do things one wants. In other words it is used to tell others what to do.

3. *Interactional Function*
Language is used to develop social relationships and ease the process of interaction. It is concerned with the phatic dimension of talk. Through this function, language is used to make contact with others and to form relationships.

4. *Personal Function*
In personal function, we use language to express the personal preferences and identity of the speaker. Language is used to express feelings, opinions and individual identity. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Here I am!’ function – announcing oneself to the world.

5. *Representational Function*
Language is used to exchange information. It deals with relaying, conveying facts or requesting information.

6. *Heuristic Function*
Here, we use language to gain knowledge, learn and explore the environment. A child uses language to learn. This may be in the form of questions and answers, or the kind of running commentary that frequently accompanies children’s play.

7. *Imaginative Function*
In this case, we use language to explore the imagination. It also accompanies play as children create imaginary worlds. We employ this language function in storytelling and sharing jokes.

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