LINGUIST List 6.913

Thu Jun 29 1995

Sum: Functionalist school of linguistics (update)

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. 81201291, updated sum. of "Functionalist school of Linguistics"

Message 1: updated sum. of "Functionalist school of Linguistics"

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 15:54:12 updated sum. of "Functionalist school of Linguistics"
From: 81201291 <>
Subject: updated sum. of "Functionalist school of Linguistics"

Dear LINGUIST readers,

I posted a summary of "Functionalist School of Linguistics" on May 9, 1995,
and I'd received several new responses correcting me. I appreciate them all.
They are:
Dave Wharton <WHARTOND%UNCG.BitnetTWNMOE10.Edu.TW> (Bert Peeters)

Here's the updated part of summary.

In my previous summary, I used a dichotomy of perspective on language
as "functional" vs. "generative" linguistics. It should be corrected.
<Dr Bert Peeters>:
 "What I said was that most people would split up the field of
 linguistics in a functional camp and a generative camp. There are
 therefore functional definitions of linguistics (probably as many as there
 are functionalists)
 and generative definitions of linguistics (with a great variety of
 definitions as well).
 I did not say there is something like a generative definition of functional
 "The first of your "corresponding dichotomies" [formal/functional linguistics]
 is entirely a formal/generative one,
 and functionalists do not observe it. Furthermore, not all functional
 linguistics is applied, as you seem to be stating, nor is all formal stuff

<Dr. Randy LaPolla>:
 "(the field doesn't really neatly split into functionaist and formalist
 schools, but many people use the terms--the key is whether you take
 the communicative function of language as the basis of your inquiry
 and explanations, or are satisfied with making a formal model of
 what you think is your competence based on introspection.)"

Besides, I didn't include much of the American Functionalism in my first
summary. For example, Dr. LaPolla told me, "Role and Reference Grammar is the
only one that is a complete theory. Others, such as Paul Hopper's work,
Sandy Thompson's work, Kuno, etc., are functionaist apporaches, but
not cohesive theories (this includes Givon), though they are very

Moreover, Dr. Bert Peeters told me more about the names appeared in the
Reference section of my origional summary. "Firbas, Frantisek, Danes, Vachek
and Mathesius are all Praguian functionalists; their impact on American
functionalism has been virtually nil. The name Vande Kopple does not ring a
bell. He may be trying to get FSP (which, by the way, is Praguian) off the
ground in the US. Halliday comes out of the Firth school, and is therefore a
descendant of what could be called British functionalism.
I feel sorry you did not mention Martinet, who was included in
my reply, and who champions French functionalism, nor even Dik, whose
functionalism is quite popular in Belgium and the Netherlands (more in those
two countries than anywhere else, anyway)."

Finally, I'm provided with more references about this topic.

Nichols, Johanna. 1984. Functional theories of grammar. Annual Review of
 Anthropology 13:97-117. (a more complete review up to 1984)

Synopsis of Role and Reference Grammar (the intro) in Van Valin, Robert D.,
 ed. 1993. Advances in Role and Reference Grammar, Benjamins.

(works about Functional Grammar:)
Anna Siewierska, _Functional Grammar_ (this is an introductory overview)

Simon K. Dik, _The Theory of Functional Grammar_ (volume one of two;
 he passed away before completing the second volume)

Harm Pinkster, _Latin Syntax and Semantics_ (an examination of Latin
 in terms of Functional Grammar)
Thank you all!
Y.S. Chang
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