According to Halliday (1973), a functional approach to language means investigating how language is used and finding out the purposes that language serves us best and how we achieve these purposes using the four macro skills namely: speaking and listening, reading and writing. In addition, Halliday (1975) state that, “learning the mother tongue consists of mastering seven basic models of language, within which there is “an open-ended and theoretically infinite range of options in meaning”. Children acquire these models of language as a result of direct experience with what the language does for them in their lives (Halliday, 1973). Language is a System of communication. Students and teachers both have some similarities as well as differences in the way they uses language in the classroom. Michael Halliday (1975), who provided one of the best expositions of language functions, used the term to mean the purposive nature of communication, and outlined seven different functions of language students and teachers uses language for: instrumental, interpersonal, regulatory, representational, imaginative, interactional, and heuristic purposes.
Firstly the instrumental, which serves the child’s material needs and includes expressions of desire (“I want”), (Halliday, 1978). By listening to the transcript one could realize that in the classroom the instrumental function manipulated the classroom environment, and as a result it caused certain events to happen. The teacher said “On your mark, get set, go!” or “Don’t lean on the fence”. These sentences have an instrumental function: they are communicative acts that have a specific perlocutionary force; they bring about a particular condition.
Likewise the interpersonal function is drawn from Halliday’s interactional (“me and you”) model, which enables individuals to initiate and maintain social contact (1975). The personal function allows a speaker to express feelings, emotions, personality, “gut-level “reactions. A person’s individuality is usually characterized by his or her use of the personal function of communication. In the personal nature of language, cognition, affect, and culture all interact. In the classroom the interpersonal function creates a sense of identity for each student, the teacher and the class as a whole. In the transcript after the teacher and the students sang the song the teacher asked students if they liked the song and they responded yes. The teacher also brought the students outside to play, but while playing a child “vomit” a student expression was “Yuck” this connotes disgust, but the word itself is not necessarily used to inform but to express how he felt. There was also a student that yawned and uttered “I’m tired” this is informative and expressive and as a result expressive language had the power to inspire and entertain. The difference was that when the students “vomited” the teacher held her and provided some assistance and told the student not to say the word “yuck” again when someone becomes ill.
Similarly the regulatory function of language is the control of events. The regulations of encounter among people approval, disapproval, behavior control, setting laws and rules are all regulatory features of language. The regulatory (“Do as I tell you”) model of language. (Halliday, 1978). The regulatory is the function of causing and controlling. By listening to the transcript we would realize that on a regular basis in classroom the teacher gave instructions of praise, for example “Please sit down”. This is the language that the teachers are accustom to use and students are accustom to hearing. These language basic reduces the amount that students are forced to use their mother tongue and increases the amount of the target language they are using; it makes the language classroom environment more authentic. In regards to the differences, the teacher used the language in the classroom in a scaffolded way. When the teacher was interrupted with her lesson by a student she started with giving short commands, with one word such as “Stop”. Then the teacher progressed to a longer command, such as “Stop the talking please” and eventually the students learnt alternate phrases that meant the same, for example “Do not speak when someone else is speaking”.
Additionally the representational (“I’ve got something to tell you”). The representational function is the use of language to make statements, convey facts and knowledge, explain, or report that is, to “represent” reality as one sees it and finally is able to convey messages that have a specific reference to something in the real world (representational) (Halliday, 1975). In the representational function of language in the classroom the students and the teacher obtain knowledge from: teacher and students or from students and students. During the teaching and learning process the representational function of language is been carried out during the content of the lesson. One example is, by listening to the transcript we would realize that the teacher told students that in music a special name is given to the softness and lowness of sounds and it is called “Pitch”.
Furthermore the imaginative function reflects the ability to use and appreciate language as a creative medium. It draws on Halliday’s imaginative (“let’s pretend”) model, in which “the child creates an environment of his own,” first in sounds, stories, and make-believe, and finally through poetry and creative writing (1975). It is the means by which the learner can reflect on language as an object, as well as the vehicle through which the learner can conceive of and express new ideas. This function of language was not observed in the classroom.
Moreover the interactional function of language serves to ensure social maintenance. “Phatic communion,” that simply allows students and teachers to establish social contact and to keep channels of communication open. At a section of the lesson the teacher transferred from vocal behavior to body language for example, “come back we will soon get to race” to a wave of the hand to signal come. However interactional purpose of language was not carried out by the students in the classroom.
Finally the heuristic function involves language used to acquire knowledge, to learn about the environment. Heuristic functions are often conveyed in the form of questions that will lead to answers. Children typically make good use of the heuristic function in their incessant “why “questions about the world around them. Inquiry is a heuristic method of eliciting representations of reality from others. By listening to the transcript we know that the teacher’s intention was to affect the children in some way. For instance the teacher asked questions during the teaching and learning process in order to evoke some form of response from the students. However the students used language cognitively when they were talking about who will win the race, and they competed a race; here students used language heuristically to entertain.
Halliday (1973), a functional approach to language retrieved on April 28, 2018 fromhttps://www.google.com.jm/search?q=halliday+1975+seven+functions+of+language&rlz=1C1CHBD_enJM778JM778&oq=halliday+1975&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.5962j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
Halliday (1975). Functions of language retrieved on April 28, 2018 from: https://quizlet.com/4808433/seven-functions-of-childrens-language-halliday-1975-flash-cards/
Halliday (1978) Language Development/Acquisition- What are Halliday’s seven functions of a child’s language? Retrieved on April 30, 2018 from: https://www.mytutor.co.uk/answers/4533/A-Level/English-Language/Language-Development-Acquisition-What-are-Halliday-s-seven-functions-of-a-child-s-language.