Functions of language: psychological

Language has diverse functions which are of two basic types: psychological and sociological. This short essay represents the psychological functions of language.

There are five essential psychological functions of language: naming, stating, modeling of reality, expression and cognition.

Finding names to experience and items is a psychological necessity. However, this need is so obvious that people mostly don’t realize its importance. It is essentially significant to have symbols/names to identify and even control things. In fact, finding the right word to symbolize some object or event seems to give some control over such things.

Stating is to say something about the object and event that are named. This is why there are subjective-predicate statements and topic-comment statements. Besides, since single propositions are too limited to meet certain psychological needs, it is natural to link together strings of sentences.

Modeling of the reality is the more profound function developed by people. In some sense, people instinctively felt words should provide a system for viewing the world – verbal symbols could reflect a reality, although imperfectly. From a different perspective, language is used to model reality in four major semantic classes of lexemes: 1) entities, e.g. daisy, water, tree, 2) activities, e.g. cry, laugh, run, 3) characteristics, primarily qualities and quantities, e.g. good, numerous, quickly, and 4) relations, e.g. in, because, during.

Another psychological function of language is expression – give vent to a person’s own feelings. It could be emotive responses to some event, e.g. ouch, damn it, and oh boy. It can also be a matter of playing with words which small children often love to do. Expressive language might be for the purpose of aesthetics. Words are arranged to form balance, proportion, symmetry and rhythm to formulate a certain psychological atmosphere.

Cognition, using language to think, is possibly the most important psychological function of language. Whatever style the thinking is performed, language is involved. This is a process of manipulating verbal symbols within brain.

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