Roman Jakobson: Closing Statement

Jakobson, R. (1960). Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics. In Sebeok, Thomas A., ed. Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. 350-377.

What’s his point: Poetics deals with the question What makes a verbal message a work of art? Poetics deals with deals with problems of verbal structure. He overall wants to bridge the gap between the literary and the linguistic (377).

351- in short, many poetic features belong not only to the science of language but to the whole theory of signs, to general semiotics.

The study of poetics has long been relegated to literary studies, but Jakobson suggests adding poetics to linguistics in the sense that it is core to the function of language.

Six factors determine a different function of language
-Addresser, Addressee, Context, Message, Contact (physical channel and psychological connection between addressor and addressee), Code

The different functions include: referential, expressive, conative, poetic, phatic, and reflexive.

  • The Referential Function: corresponds to the factor of Context and describes a situation, object or mental state. The descriptive statements of the referential function can consist of both definite descriptions and deictic (reference) words, e.g. “The autumn leaves have all fallen now.”
  • The Expressive/Emotive/Affective Function relates to the Addresser (sender, speaker) and is best exemplified by interjections (spontaneous utterance of feeling) and other sound changes that do not alter the denotative (literal) meaning of an utterance but do add information about the speaker’s)internal state, e.g. “Wow, what a view!”
  • The Conative Function: engages the Addressee (receiver, hearer) directly and is best illustrated by vocatives (nouns that specify the addressee) and imperatives (commands), e.g. “Tom! Come inside and eat!”. Similar to the performance utterance and making people do something
  • The Poetic Function: focuses on “the message for its own sake” (the code itself, and how it is used) and is the operative function in poetry as well as slogans. “I like Ike”. Debbie Downer.
  • The Phatic Function: is language for the sake of interaction and is therefore associated with the Contact/Channel factor. The Phatic Function can be observed in greetings and casual discussions of the weather, particularly with strangers. It also provides the keys to open, maintain, verify or close the communication channel: “Hello?”, “Ok?”, “Hummm”, “Bye”… Contact is skewed with technologies. 
    • Claim the floor (interactions done by addresser/addressee). Like uhhh so as to keep people from jumping in or cutting off speakers
    • Phatic strategies to keep communication going
    • Silence, “mic drop”, speech fillers.
  • The Metalingual/metalinguistic/reflexive Function: is the use of language (code) to discuss or describe itself. Language about language. Whole articles about some aspect of language would count as reflexive.


  • Poetics is verbal play (of language); projects the principle of equivalance from the axis of selection into the axis of combination
  • The communicative event
  • 356-  Any process of language learning, in particular child acquisition of the mother tongue, makes wide use of such metalingual operations.
  • Pg 357


Image result for roman jakobson communication model

  • 358-  The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence  from the ax1s of selection into the axis of combination.
  • 367-  phonetic isolation definition  is based relation and rhyme
  • 368- parallelism is the rhythm

374-  Any analysis of poetic sound texture must consistently take into account the phonological structure of the given language and, beside the overall code, also the hierarchy of phonological distinctions in the given poetic Convention. This connects to the idea that language must be taken on its own.


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