Differentiation of language functions during language acquisition based on Roman Jakobson’s communication model

  • Lauri Linask Department of Semiotics University of Tartu Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu Estonia
Keywords: Roman Jakobson, communication model, language functions, language acquisition, metalanguage, poetic function, crib talk, inner speech


The paper uses Roman Jakobson’s conceptual framework to study the development of communication of children. It sets out to explain how cardinal functions of verbal messages – referential, emotive, conative, phatic, metalingual and poetic – understood in terms of Jakobson’s communication model – progressively differentiate during children’s language acquisition. The differentiation of these functions is apparent in changes in children’s use of language, as it corresponds to the gradual formation and adoption of various linguistic structures in the development of speech. Children’s acquisition of the use of grammatical subject and predicate, corresponding to the appearance of specifically metalingual speech, among other linguistic structures, is related to children’s adaptation to the linguistic environment. The article relates differentiation of metalingual and poetic functions to the development of children’s thinking using the example of crib talk.


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