general theory of the organization of natural language
|Functional Grammar (FG), as developed
by Simon Dik and others, is a general theory of the organization
of natural language. FG seeks to be a theory which is 'functional'
in at least three different, though interrelated senses:
- It takes a functional view on the nature of language;
- It attaches primary importance to functional relations
at different levels in the organization of grammar;
- It wishes to be practically applicable to the analysis
of different aspects of language and language use.
|The following standards of adequacy are
of particular importance for the theory of FG:
- TYPOLOGICAL ADEQUACY: the theory should be formulated
in terms of rules and principles which can be applied to
any type of natural language.
- PRAGMATIC ADEQUACY: what the theory says about a language
should be such as to help us understand how linguistic expressions
can be effectively used in communicative interaction.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL ADEQUACY: what the theory says about a language
should be compatible with what is known about the psychological
mechanisms involved in natural language processing.
|In FG, functional notions play essential
and fundamental roles at different levels of grammatical organization.
Many of the rules and principles of FG are formulated in terms
of functional notions. Three types or levels of functions are
- SEMANTIC FUNCTIONS (Agent, Patient, Recipient, etc.) which
define the roles that participants play in states of affairs,
as designated by predications.
- SYNTACTIC FUNCTIONS (Subject and Object) which define
different perspectives through which states of affairs are
presented in linguistic expressions.
- PRAGMATIC FUNCTIONS (Theme and Tail, Topic and Focus)
which define the informational status of constituents of
linguistic expressions. They relate to the embedding of
the expression in the ongoing discourse, that is, are determined
by the status of the pragmatic information of Speaker and
Addressee as it developes in verbal interaction.
| FG aims at a high
degree of practical applicability
in the analysis of diverse aspects of language and language
use. An attempt is made to reach this goal by (i) maximizing
the degree of typological adequacy, while (ii) minimizing the
degree of abstractness of linguistic analysis. By degree of
abstractness is meant the distance (as measured in terms of
rules, operations, or procedures) between the structures postulated
for a given language on the basis of the theory, and the actual
linguistic expressions of that language which are constructed
in terms of these structures. The following principles limit
- transformations in the sense of structure-changing operations
- empty elements in underlying structure which do not receive
expression are avoided;
- filter devices are disallowed;
- abstract lexical decomposition is not applied (instead
the semantic relations between words are accounted for through