Roman Jakobson

Roman Jakobson(1896-1982) was a Russian-American linguist and literary theorist. He was born on 11 October 1896 in Russia. He was part of the Moscow Linguistic Circle. Moscow Linguistic Circle was a group of social scientists active from 1915-1924.

He was a member of the Prague Linguistic Circle which focused on structuralist literary analysis. He was also critical of the Bolshevik Revolution because the revolution let the chances of creative freedom lose to conservatism and orthodoxy. He fled from Prague in 1939 for Denmark. He moved to Harvard University, US, in the year, 1949. 

Roman Jakobson defined 6 functions of language as “Communication Functions”. The 6 functions are as follows – 

  1. Referential Function – It refers to context or a mental state or a situation. 
  2. Poetic Function –   It refers to a message for its own sake. It is the process that tells how something is conveyed. It is an aesthetic function. 
  3. Emotive Function – It refers to the sender’s mental state. 
  4. Conative Function – It refers to imperatives received by a recipient of a message.   
  5. Phatic Function – It refers to language of interaction between the sender and receiver. For instance – light chats about politics between two people. 
  6. Metalingual Function – It refers to the use of language as ‘code’. 

Roman Jakobson has also contributed to the field of Linguistic Typology. Linguistic Typology is a branch of linguistics that does a structural classification of languages. He has also contributed to the field of Linguistic Universals. Linguistic Universals refers to a pattern which is common to all languages. For instance – Noun and verbs are common to all languages. 

Roman Jakobson also brought forward an idea of “markedness”. Markedness is the state of being unusual or standing out as different in comparison to regular form. It is an idea that is not based upon homogeneity where every entity conforms to the regular form.

Markedness is the rejection of homogeneity. It refers to an act of non-conformity where one entity makes itself visible through distinction from the general norm. It is also a metaphor for artistic freedom which does not conform to fashions or peer-pressure. 

Notable works of Roman Jakobson include On Linguistic Aspects of Translation, 1959, Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics, The Framework of Language (1980), Questions de poetique (1973), Six Lectures of Sound and Meaning, 1978, The Framework of Language, 1980, The Sound Shape of Language, 1979, Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time, 1985, Language in Literature, 1987, “Shifters and Verbal Categories.” On Language, 1990.