Source of the pic.:

Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday (*1925)


  • Language and context

Research Interests

  • Ecolinguistics (eco-critical discourse analysis)

Notable Ideas

  • Functions of language



Halliday is a British linguist, teacher, and proponent of neo-Firthian theory who viewed language basically as a social phenomenon.

Halliday obtained his B.A. in Chinese language and literature from the University of London and then did postgraduate work in linguistics, first at Peking University and later at the University of Cambridge, from which he obtained his Ph.D. in 1955.
source of biography
"M.A.K. Halliday." Encyclopędia Britannica. Encyclopędia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopędia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 15 May. 2013. <>.

Contribution to Linguistics

He has worked in various regions of language study, both theoretical and applied, and has been especially concerned with applying the understanding of the basic principles of language to the theory and practices of education.

Central Knowledge

Halliday (1975) identifies seven functions that language has for children in their early years. Children are motivated to acquire language because it serves certain purposes or functions for them. The first four functions help the child to satisfy physical, emotional and social needs:

  • Instrumental: This is when the child uses language to express their needs (e.g.'Want juice')
  • Regulatory: This is where language is used to tell others what to do (e.g. 'Go away')
  • Interactional: Here language is used to make contact with others and form relationships (e.g 'Love you, mummy')
  • Personal: This is the use of language to express feelings, opinions and individual identity (e.g 'Me good girl')

The next three functions help the child to come to terms with his or her environment:

  • Heuristic: This is when language is used to gain knowledge about the environment (e.g. 'What the tractor doing?')
  • Imaginative: Here language is used to tell stories and jokes, and to create an imaginary environment.
  • Representational: The use of language to convey facts and information.

Main Publications

  • Explorations in the Functions of Language. London: Edward Arnold, 1973.

  • Halliday, M. A. K., and C. M. I. M. Matthiessen. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. 3d ed. London: Arnold, 2004.

  • Intonation and Grammar in British English, 1967.

  • Cohesion in English, 1976.

Categories: People