FDG Outline
What is Functional Grammar ?
A general theory of the organization of natural language
Standards of adequacy
Functional relations
Practical applicability
Top PageA 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:
  1. It takes a functional view on the nature of language;
  2. It attaches primary importance to functional relations at different levels in the organization of grammar;
  3. It wishes to be practically applicable to the analysis of different aspects of language and language use.
Top PageStandards of adequacy
The following standards of adequacy are of particular importance for the theory of FG:
  1. TYPOLOGICAL ADEQUACY: the theory should be formulated in terms of rules and principles which can be applied to any type of natural language.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Top PageFunctional relations
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 distinguished:
  1. SEMANTIC FUNCTIONS (Agent, Patient, Recipient, etc.) which define the roles that participants play in states of affairs, as designated by predications.
  2. SYNTACTIC FUNCTIONS (Subject and Object) which define different perspectives through which states of affairs are presented in linguistic expressions.
  3. 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.
Top PagePractical applicability
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 abstractness:
  1. transformations in the sense of structure-changing operations are avoided;
  2. empty elements in underlying structure which do not receive expression are avoided;
  3. filter devices are disallowed;
  4. abstract lexical decomposition is not applied (instead the semantic relations between words are accounted for through meaning definitions)

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