Functional Grammar

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Functional Grammar (FG) is a structural-functional theory of language, of which Simon C. Dik was the initiator and main developer. The theory arose in the 1970s as a response to the prevalence of transformational generative approaches in the Dutch linguistic debate, and was expanded in a series of volumes through the 1980s and 1990s. An international community of linguists from Europe and South America is involved in the practice and development of FG, which has its power base at the University of Amsterdam, Dik's former affiliation.

Functional Grammar is characterised by a high standard of descriptive adequacy, which makes it a suitable framework for typologists. In response to generative linguistics, it furthermore forbids all deletion of previously generated structure, the use of filters, etc. Instead, surface structure is generated on the basis of a semantico-pragmatic underlying representation (UR) by means of expression rules.

In Functional Discourse Grammar (FDG), its most recent incarnation, the study of linguistic structure in the wider context of verbal interaction is addressed more explicitly. In order to better account for interpersonal and discourse-related effects on linguistic structure, Dik's idea of a monostratal architecture has been abandoned in favour of separate levels of underlying representation for semantics and interpersonal (pragmatic) structure. Also, FDG explicitly takes a strictly non-aprioristic stance on linguistic description, claiming that the definition of both structural ánd functional primitives should proceed on the basis of distributional analysis only.


The Functional Grammar Foundation coordinates international activity and organises a biannual conference. A series of volumes dedicated to FG used to appear with Mouton de Gruyter, but was recently terminated.


  • Dik, Simon C. 1978. Functional Grammar. North-Holland Linguistic Series 37. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
  • Dik, Simon C. 1989. The theory of Functional Grammar. Functional Grammar Series 9. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Dik, Simon C. 1997a. The theory of Functional Grammar. Part 1: The structure of the clause. 2nd edition, edited by Kees Hengeveld. Functional Grammar Series 20. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Dik, Simon C. 1997b. The theory of Functional Grammar. Part 2: Complex and derived constructions. 2nd edition, edited by Kees Hengeveld. Functional Grammar Series 20. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Hengeveld, Kees & J. Lachlan Mackenzie 2006. Functional Discourse Grammar. In Keith Brown (ed.), Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. Second edition, 668-676. Amsterdam: Elsevier.