Three Primary Uses of Language

Language is the means by which humans learn, interact and bond. Both verbal and non-verbal forms of language communicate subtle nuances that affect the meaning of words and phrases. Communication can be categorized into three primary purposes for language: informative, expressive and directive. With these uses of language also comes the functions of language, specifically within spoken language and written language. For some, sign language is the main form of language, but sociolinguistics and social interactions are what make language useful in life.

Attribution to interpersonal skills can also come from language, and the type of language used can mean different things in different cultures and settings. Semantics are also a great addition to language, as well as pragmatics and phonology in language development. Language acquisition, informative language, informative function of language, directive function, and language functions are all essential to the uses of language and basic functions of everyday life. Different languages, like English and Arabic, can be used across cultures and settings. This is why it is essential for young children to learn language early in life, and second languages are always encouraged.


The informative use of language involves information giving and receiving. The general assumption is that the content is believable and valuable. For example, language is used to offer opinions, give advice, make announcements, lecture, admonish, report news, solicit input or ask questions. Everyday conversations center around information sharing.


Language expresses and evokes ideas, thoughts and feelings. Expressive language may or may not include any real information because the purpose of expressive use of language is to convey emotion. For example, the expression “Yuck” connotes disgust, but the word itself isn't necessarily used to inform. Expressive language in literature, music and the performing arts has the power to inspire and entertain.


Language is used to establish and maintain social order. Directive use of language establishes norms of expected behavior in certain situations. Traffic signs, laws, rules and policies are among the common forms of directive language that promote health and safety in society. “Eat your vegetables” is an example of directive use of language used in informal communication.

Multiple Uses

In many cases, use of language serves multiple purposes. For example, the statement “Stop that” is both directive and expressive. Yawning and uttering “I’m tired” is informative, expressive, and possibly directive if used to imply that another person should leave because it's late.

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