If the function is making suggestions, we can use the following structures:
- Let’s have a party.
- Why don’t we have a party?
- How about having a party?
- We could have a party.
These utterances are all exponents of the function of suggesting. If our function is speculation, we can say:
- If Macbeth hadn’t listened to the witches, he wouldn’t have murdered the king. - I think there’ll be a revolution in Egypt in the next ten years. - I reckon that before the middle of the century we’ll all be running our houses on wind power.
These utterances are all exponents of the function of speculation.
The function of an utterance can be deduced from the context in which it is made.
This refers to what is sometimes called “grammatical meaning.”
For example, consider this utterance:
- You used to send me flowers.
Used to tells us that the sending of flowers took place regularly in the past over an extended period of time and that it no longer takes place. The concept may therefore be defined as discontinued past state or habit.
The concept is quite distinct from the function, which, in this case, might be expressing reproach or reminiscing. While the function of an utterance always depends on its context, the concept is intrinsic.
Concept checking questions used during the clarification of this structure could be:
Does he send flowers now? (No)
Did he send flowers? (Yes)
For just a short time? (No)
Just once? (No) Regularly? (Yes)
Concept checking questions are asked by the teacher during the clarification/presentation stage of a lesson and are intended both to highlight the concept of the utterance and to check that students understand it.
Now, list as many exponents as you can of the function of offers (at least 6). You will find it easier if you use a different offer and context with each exponent, as in the two examples.
Can I get that for you?
1) Would you like a glass of water?
2) May I get you another drink?
3) Shall I open that for you?
4) Might I interest you in some desert?
5) Wouldn’t you rather share a taxi?
6) May I suggest some maple syrup to go with it?
7) Would you care for some wine?
Sometimes it is difficult to give an utterance a functional label. For example, I have been here for ten years. The function here could be something as nebulous as giving information. Such language items are better approached in the classroom from a conceptual point of view while other items are easier to approach from a functional point of view.
There is an important phonological consideration when teaching functions. Intonation can change the function of a structure. For example, If I were you, I wouldn’t do that. This can be a threat or friendly advice depending on the pitch range and movement of the speaker’s voice.
Stylistic variation is the choice of lexis and grammatical structure which shows that we are speaking or writing informally or formally, to friends or our lawyer, etc. For example, imagine you were at a royal garden party, discussing the next day’s races with a duchess. Just as she was about to give you a tip for tomorrow’s winner, someone popped open a bottle of champagne. What would you say?
Come again, love!
I’m sorry. Could you repeat that, please?
You would most likely say (b), although of course, it would depend on the nature of your relationship with the duchess and what you both consider appropriate language in the situation.
Remember, also, that although a formal style is usually synonymous with polite, an informal one isn’t always synonymous with rude.
Rank these statements, made at a party, according to formality of style. 1 is the most formal and 5 the least formal.
Hello, I’m Jane. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.
Hi, I’m Sam. And you...
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