Language Functions

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The English Language Proficiency Standards are written as pathways to the Oregon English Language Arts standards. The ELP
Standards are designed to supplement the ELA standards to ensure that LEP students develop proficiency in both the English language
and the concepts and skills contained in the ELA standards. They can be found on the web
This section contains language functions and forms that native English speakers acquire mostly before entering school or naturally at
home. These language functions and forms, however, need to be explicitly taught to English language learners (ELLs). They may be
taught to ELLs at all grade levels, and as the need and context arises.
Forms of a language deal with theinternal grammatical structure of words. The relationship between boy and boys, for example, and
the relationship (irregular) between man and men would be forms of a language.
A language function refers to the purpose for which speech or writing is being used.
In speech these include:

giving instructions

introducing ourselves

making requests

In academic writing we use arange of specific functions in order to communicate ideas clearly.
These include:

describing processes

comparing or contrasting things or ideas, and

classifying objects or ideas

The contrast between form and function in language can be illustrated through a simple medical analogy. If doctors studied only a
limited portion of the human system, such as anatomical form,they would be unable to adequately address their patient’s needs. To
fully treat their patients, physicians must understand the purposes of the human body and the relationships between organs, cells, and
genes (Pozzi, 2004). Similarly, ELLs need to understand both the form (structure) and the function (purpose) of the English language
in order to reach higher levels of proficiency.
Pozzi, D.C.(2004). Forms and functions in language: Morphology, syntax. Retrieved March 10, 2005, from University of Houston, College of Education
Web site:

Language Functions and Examples of Forms
Language Function

Examples of Language Forms

Expressing needs and likes

Indirect/ direct object, subject/ verb agreement, pronouns

Describingpeople, places, and things

Nouns, pronouns, adjectives

Describing spatial and temporal relations

Prepositional phrases

Describing actions

Present progressive tense, adverbs

Retelling/relating past events

Past tense verbs, perfect aspect (present and past)

Making predictions

Verbs: future tense, conditional mode

Asking Informational Questions

Verbs and verb phrasesin questions

Asking Clarifying Questions

Questions with increasing specificity

Expressing and Supporting Opinions

Sentence structure, modals (will, can, may, shall)


Adjectives and conjunctions, comparatives, superlatives, adverbs


Comparative adjectives


Increasingly complex sentences with increasingly specific

Verb forms

Literary Analysis

Sentence structure, specific vocabulary

Cause and Effect

Verb forms

Drawing Conclusions

Comparative adjective


Nouns, abstract nouns, pronouns, and adjectives


Verb forms, indicative verb, declarative sentences, complex
sentences, adverbs of manner


Common, collective and abstract nouns, verbforms,


Complex sentences; increasing specificity of nouns, verbs, and
adjectives; correlative conjunctions


Language of propaganda, complex sentences, nominalizations


Adverbs of time, relative clauses, subordinate conjunctions

Hypothesizing and speculating

Modals (would, could, might), compound tenses (would have
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