What is the Phatic Function of Language (with 40 Examples)

The phatic function of language is one that serves to establish, maintain or interrupt contact between two or more interlocutors, allowing their communication effectively. That is why it is also known as a contact function.

Expressions of greeting or farewell are part of the phatic function, but also all those intended to verify that the communication is not faulty.

These are phrases, words or even interjections. Most have little content and in many cases a purely formal value. In addition, they are especially susceptible to social conventions and the cultural context in which they are expressed, varying from one region to another according to the uses or customs of the area.

Examples of the phatic function of language

Among the many examples we can find protocol, polite and other more informal formulas. Usual usage is established by context.

We also frequently find rhetorical questions, exclamations or interjections.


  • Hello
  • Hello
  • Buenas tardes
  • Goodnight
  • enchanted and enchanted
  • It’s a pleasure to greet you
  • welcome and welcome

All these expressions are widely used in interpersonal encounters in Spanish.

  • Hello
  • say
  • Tell me
  • Yes…
  • How are you?
  • What was there?
  • asere

In the case of the word “Aló” it is widely used throughout Latin America to establish contact by telephone, while the following are more common in telephone conversations in Spain and other countries.

In addition, although they are all common formulas to establish contact between interlocutors in different contexts. The last of these expressions is used, for example, regularly in Cuba, but not in other Spanish-speaking countries.

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  • Bye
  • See you soon
  • Bye
  • See you
  • We continue another time
  • Until next time
  • It has been a pleasure
  • A pleasure!
  • Excuse me, I have to leave you
  • I’m gone!
  • Bye fish!

As in the case of the greeting, we find standard, very formal expressions or even jargon typical of each place, as in the last example, which refers to a casual way of saying goodbye in Spain.

Other expressions with phatic function

  • I hear you or I hear you
  • How not…
  • AHA…
  • That’s how it is…
  • I understand
  • Already…
  • Of course
  • In agreement
  • Indeed
  • Did you hear me?
  • Do you hear me?

Some expressions, such as affirmative ones, do not necessarily imply acceptance, but only confirm receipt of the message or the proper functioning of the channel chosen for communication.

But this is not the case in the case of those that indicate that something is wrong and there is no good communication between the interlocutors. It would be the case of the following:

  • How?
  • I can not hear
  • there is interference
  • Too much noise
  • I don’t understand you

Other language functions

In addition to the phatic or contact function, there are five other Language functionsWhich are the following:

  1. appellate function: When the message appeals directly to the caller, so a specific response or action is expected from him. All call-to-action expressions or direct questions have an appellative or conative function.
  2. referential function: When the message refers to any external reality. In this case the objective is to communicate this reality. In other words, descriptions or information have a referential function, mainly.
  3. emotional or expressive function: When the message expresses a feeling, emotion, desire or state of mind of the sender.
  4. poetic or aesthetic function: When the message has an aesthetic function, beyond its literal meaning. It is the main function of metaphors or rhetorical figures and is present, fundamentally, in literary texts, proverbs or songs.
  5. metalinguistic function: When language is used to talk about itself, about language itself. This is very common in language teaching.
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