Functional grammar (FG) and functional discourse grammar (FDG) are grammar models and theories motivated by functional theories of grammar. These theories explain how linguistic utterances are shaped, based on the goals and knowledge of natural language users. In doing so, it contrasts with Chomskyan transformational grammar. Functional discourse grammar has been developed as a successor to functional grammar, attempting to be more psychologically and pragmatically adequate than functional grammar.[1][2]

The top-level unit of analysis in functional discourse grammar is the discourse move, not the sentence or the clause. This is a principle that sets functional discourse grammar apart from many other linguistic theories, including its predecessor functional grammar.


Functional grammar (FG) is a model of grammar motivated by functions,[3] as Dik's thesis[4] pointed towards issues with generative grammar and its analysis of coordination back then, and proposed to solve them with a new theory focused on e.g. concepts such as subject and object. The model was originally developed by Simon C. Dik at the University of Amsterdam in the 1970s,[5] and has undergone several revisions since then. The latest standard version under the original name is laid out in the 1997 edition,[6] published shortly after Dik's death. The latest version features the expansion of the model with a pragmatic/interpersonal module by Kees Hengeveld and Lachlan Mackenzie.[1] This has led to a renaming of the theory to functional discourse grammar. This type of grammar is quite distinct from systemic functional grammar as developed by Michael Halliday and many other linguists since the 1970s.

The notion of "function" in FG generalizes the standard distinction of grammatical functions such as subject and object. Constituents (parts of speech) of a linguistic utterance are assigned three types or levels of functions:

  1. Semantic function (Agent, Patient, Recipient, etc.), describing the role of participants in states of affairs or actions expressed
  2. Syntactic functions (Subject and Object), defining different perspectives in the presentation of a linguistic expression
  3. Pragmatic functions (Theme and Tail, Topic and Focus), defining the informational status of constituents, determined by the pragmatic context of the verbal interaction

Principles of functional discourse grammar

There are a number of principles that guide the analysis of natural language utterances according to functional discourse grammar.

Functional discourse grammar explains the phonology, morphosyntax, pragmatics and semantics in one linguistic theory. According to functional discourse grammar, linguistic utterances are built top-down in this order by deciding upon:

  1. The pragmatic aspects of the utterance
  2. The semantic aspects of the utterance
  3. The morphosyntactic aspects of the utterance
  4. The phonological aspects of the utterance

According to functional discourse grammar, four components are involved in building up an utterance:

The grammatical component consists of four levels:


This example analyzes the utterance "I can't find the red pan. It is not in its usual place." according to functional discourse grammar at the interpersonal level.

At the interpersonal level, this utterance is one discourse move, which consists of two discourse acts, one corresponding to "I can't find the red pan." and another corresponding to "It is not in its usual place."

Similar analysis, decomposing the utterance into progressively smaller units, is possible at the other levels of the grammatical component.

See also


  1. ^ a b Hengeveld, Kees; Mackenzie, J. Lachlan (August 2008). Functional Discourse Grammar: A Typologically-Based Theory of Language Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-927811-4.
  2. ^ Mackenzie, J. Lachlan; Gómez-González, María de los Ángeles, eds. (2005). Studies in Functional Discourse Grammar. Linguistic Insights, Studies in Language and Communication. Vol. 26. Peter Lang Publishing Group. ISBN 978-3-03910-696-7. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  3. ^ Hurford, J (1990). Roca, I. M (ed.). "Nativist and functional explanations in language acquisition". Logical Issues in Language Acquisition. Foris, Dordrecht: 85–136. doi:10.1515/9783110870374-007. ISBN 9783110870374. Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  4. ^ Dik, Simon C. (1968). Coordination: its implications for the theory of general linguistics. Amsterdam: North-Holland. ISBN 9780720460285.
  5. ^ Dik, Simon C. (1989). The Theory of Functional Grammar, Parts 1 & 2 (1 ed.).
  6. ^ Dik, Simon C. (1997). The Theory of Functional Grammar, Part 1: The Structure of the Clause (2 ed.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110154047.