Here we answer the question “what is the language used for?”

The following are among the common functions of language;

Communication function

Language is used to facilitate the delivery of information or thoughts from one person to another. For example in class a teacher conveys thoughts/ ideas to students.

Communication is the most dominant function of language.

Phatic function

Here the language focuses on establishing contacts, relations and maintaining good social relationships

Expressions such as good afternoon, how do you do, hi and other forms of greetings are common in daily interactions of the people.

Therefore this function does not focus on communicating but it maintains good social relationships among the people.

Referential (Descriptive) function

This function focuses on talking about facts or experiences.


  • Amina was born in 1986
  • The sun is hot today.

Poetic function

This is the artistic use of language. In literature for example meanings of words are narrowed or widened by using figures of speech.

E.g. – Receive tones of greetings from Mama  Mwashambwa.

  • He was as black as charcoal.
  • Jane is indeed an angel of this village.

Regulatory function

Language is sometimes used to warn or impart discipline into the minds of the people

For example, political leaders use this language when asking for votes. Again religious leaders use this function as they preach

Performative function/ Declarative function

It is employed in occasions like wedding ceremonies, church masses and court of law.

This is the function that changes the state of affairs in the world. For instance when an authorized person declares, “I pronounce you husband and wife”, “I sentence you to seven years imprisonment”, “I baptize you in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit,” “I officially declare the meeting open”; the state automatically becomes so.

Therefore, here the language is said to have performed or declared.

Recording function

This is the function of language which serves as something important in the future. Language is used for documentation/ recording. For example the language of the Bible, Koran and that of legal documents serve this purpose.

Emotive function

Language is used to express personal emotions. For example interjections such as ; oh!, wow! And gosh! Are used to express people’s emotions.

Metalinguistic function

This is the function of language whereby language is used to talk about itself.

For instance we use metalinguistic function to describe different aspects of language such as word classes, nature of language, pronunciation and so on.



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