Learn about the types of communicative intention

In this post we explain what communicative intention is and what the most common types are.

Career development

Communication is an intrinsic process that allows us to share ideas, emotions and experiences. Now, not all people express themselves in the same way or use this resource with the same objective: perhaps we are just trying to inform about a topic, or we are persuading a client to buy a product, perhaps what we want is to tell our friend how we feel. In each case, the types of communicative intention are different.  

Therefore, it is not only important to know what we want to say, but how we communicate it. In this post, we explain what communicative intention is and what the most common types are. We also share some examples that can help you. Ready to express yourself better? 

Let’s first explain what communicative intention is. 

Whenever we share an idea we have a motivation to do so. This is called communicative intention. In general, it is what drives us to communicate in a certain way, whether to inform, persuade, entertain, express emotions or maintain social relationships. The goal is to provoke a reaction in the recipient, either through verbal or non-verbal language.  

As we told you before, the type of communicative intention can vary depending on the context, the recipient, and the specific purpose of the interaction. Understanding this concept is the key to properly interpreting the messages we receive, better understanding the motivations of the sender and avoiding misunderstandings.  

Language functions 

Language functions refer to the various purposes or intentions behind the use of language in human communication. Each function focuses on specific aspects of this interaction process: 

  • Referential or informative function: it focuses on transmitting objective information about the external world. It is used to describe facts, situations or concepts precisely and clearly.  
  • Conative or appellative function: in this function, the emphasis falls on influencing the recipient of the message, seeking to persuade, convince or influence their behaviour or attitude. It is used in calls to action, such as in advertisements that urge you to buy a product or in political speeches that encourage you to vote for a candidate. 
  • Emotive function: it is focused on expressing emotions, feelings or moods of the sender of the message. It is used to share personal experiences and express love, joy or other emotions.  
  • Poetic function: Here language is used to create aesthetic beauty or emotional impact through the form and style of the message. It focuses on linguistic creativity, rhythm, meter, metaphors and other figures of speech to generate an artistic effect on the recipient.  
  • Metalinguistic function: refers to the use of language to talk about one’s own language, define terms, clarify meanings or discuss grammar.  
  • Phatic function: attempts to maintain or initiate communication, rather than transmitting specific information. Phrases like “Can you hear me?”, “Are you there?” or “How are you?” are examples of this function 

Types of communicative intention and some examples 

The theory of communicative intention types was developed by the philosopher John Searle who stated that there are different modes that differ depending on their purpose. Below, we exemplify six types of very common communicative intention in the business field: 

  • When we write a report on the results of a project, or when we give clear instructions on the steps to follow to carry out a task, we are transmitting specific data or knowledge. In this case, there is an informative intention
  • Meanwhile, company policies and procedures establish guidelines and standards of conduct for employees that attempt to influence the recipient to adopt certain actions or behaviours and respond to a prescriptive intent
  • For its part, the emotional intention is reflected when a co-worker is congratulated for their performance, as it expresses a feeling or state of mind on the part of the sender. 
  • The phatic intention is present in our daily lives and manifests itself from when we greet someone to when we meet with the team to work collaboratively. This intention focuses on maintaining connection and the flow of communication. 
  • Likewise, promotional brochures about a product or the use of creative elements to improve the quality of communication respond to aesthetic intention.  

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