Language for Interacting With Others

Reflections on pp.109-124 of chapter 4 (Language for Interacting With Others) in Beverly Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion (2015)

This chapter covers the interpersonal function of language; “how language is used to foster social interaction, to create and maintain relationships, to develop and project a personal identity, to express opinions and engage with the views of others.” (p.109). Our roles, position and therefore language changes depending on the relationship that we pronounce ourselves in.

The language for interacting with others is dependent on the pattern of interaction. The pattern is affected about the roles we have with whom we’re talking with. The speech functions in verbal language are divided into four: questions, statements, commands and offers.  When asking questions, we are asking for information , enquiring about something or probing something. A question that asks for a yes or no answer, will naturally limit the interaction and is also called a closed-question, to avoid this, it is better to asked wh- questions (Who?, When?, Where? or Why?), as they require or provoke more lengthy answers. Statements are used to provide information and make remarks (p.112). Commands are used to get things done; either requesting information or asking for goods or services, they vary from instructions, to invitations, suggestions and advice. Finally offers are given when interacting to provide the service or good asked for. “Offers can take a number of different grammatical forms – or they might jus take the form of a physical response, such as passing someone a toll that has been requested. E.g. Here you are. or Do you want some cake?” (p.113). Thus, besides the offers, the key elements in the structure of speech functions are the subject of the verb and the auxiliary part of the verb group (p.114). Derewianka gives examples of the structures of the different speech functions:

The structure of statements

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The structure of questionsScreen Shot 2017-05-30 at 01.01.12


The structure of commandsscreen-shot-2017-05-30-at-01-01-27.png

(p. 116)

Our speech roles are also very affected by our usages of pronouns, and the terms of address we use as a resource to establish and maintain the relations in terms of power, status and so forth (p. 118). Whether you address someone as Mr./Mrs. or a nickname changes the power dynamic and interpersonal relationship within the language.

Another way to stimulate interaction is to talk about feelings and app onions to express attitudes, if nothing else, this will usually get the reader or listener to wake up and feel the need to interact or respond. Derewianka divides the different kinds of emotions into 3 categories:

  • Matters of the heart
  • Pursuing goals
  • Social wellbeing

We can use both nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs to describe our emotions.

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Emotions are also used to express opinions about something and the quality thereof. This can be regarding their composition e.g., elegant, complex, or not well developed, their social value e.g., significant or valid, and the reaction they provoke in us e.g., terrifying or fascinating! (Using exclamation marks is also a function to express in which way we want something to be received as they signify certainty, excitement or seriousness). Expressions of attitudes can, of course, be both explicit or implicit, depending on our language use and purpose of the message or emotions involved.


Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA