functions of language; political changes and conflicts; community; ideology
Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Forum Lingwistyczne, Nr 3 (2016), s. 117-125
The linguistic literature (Bühler, Jakobson) mostly mentions six functions of language, paying little
attention to the identifying function. Following the assumption that language is not an ‘ordinaty’
element of culture, but is its main basis, we believe that it has more and less stable elements, whose
functions are arranged hierarchically.
The identifying function has medium stability, is historically variable and becomes particularly
important during intensive political changes or (nationalistic) conflicts. An example might be the
recent split of Serbo-Croatian into tree languages. The identifying function is always connected with
evaluation, which often exaggerates the positive character of a group and its language. Other groups and other languages can be perceived as worse. The identifying function is realized both individually
(it can be identified with the expressive function of an individual then) and in a group. In this role
it is often used or even abused in modern culture and especially politics.
Instead of synonyms and periphrastic expressions we suggest that Polish linguists should make
use of the term identifying function of language defined as a nationally or internationally protected
function (based on cultural, ideological, or – less frequantly – religious elements) which enables a group
of people of common aims, beliefs, ideas and interests to create a community.