Introduction to Theories of Human Communication
Lecture 9: Functional
Functional Theory explains the occurrence of repetitive practices and events in everyday life.
Ex: Fireworks on New Year's Eve
B. Functional Theory -- in the way we will talk about it in this class -- is based on the work of sociologists like George Carper Homans and Talcott Parsons
MAJOR CONCEPTS OF FUNCTIONAL THEORY
A. Two types of function
Function as the intended purpose of a communicative act (the outcome we seek to bring about with our action). This is called a MANIFEST function.
Ex:Telling a joke to make you laugh.
Function as the unintended consequence of a communicative act (that
which results from an act irregardless of our original intent). This is called a LATENT function.
Ex: Telling a joke that offends you.
B. Functional Requisite -- that which must be
accomplished by the members of a relationship or group in order to insure the
effective functioning of the system.
Adaptation -- adjusting to changes in the environment and relationship/group.
Expression -- management
of interpersonal tensions and conflicts among relationship/group members.
III. PREMISES OF FUNCTIONAL THEORY
All social systems (groups, couples, organizations) are characterized by functional
B. The performance of functional requisites
is essential for the success / survival of the social system.
C. Functional requisites are performed by participants through communicative
interaction with others within the social system, as well as outside of it.
Communicative acts which perform functional requisites are reproduced by participants
E. The reproduction of communicative
acts designed to perform functional requisites manifest themselves in emerging
patterns of commmunication.
F. Emerging patterns of communication eventually become regularized (institutionalized)
forms of communication in the social system.
PRINCIPLES OF FUNCTIONAL THEORY
Principle of functional potential -- all communicative acts have potential functions in a relationship/group.
Principle of multi-functionality
-- any communicative act can function in more than one way)
Principle of contextual functionality -- the function(s) of a given communicative act is dependent on the
context in which it occurs.
Principle of functional alternatives -- the same function can be performed by different communicative acts.
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