In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Functional Discourse Grammar

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Position of FDG within Functionalism and Comparison with Other Frameworks
  • Textbooks
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Working Papers
  • The Conceptual and Contextual Component and the Place of FDG in a Wider Theory of Verbal Interaction
  • Pragmatics: The Interpersonal Level
  • Semantics: The Representational Level
  • The Lexicon: The Fund
  • Typology
  • Diachrony
  • Transparency
  • Acquisition
  • Multimodality

Linguistics Functional Discourse Grammar
Inge Genee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0241


Functional Discourse Grammar (FDG) is an expanded version of the Functional Grammar framework developed by Simon Dik at the University of Amsterdam from the 1970s through the middle of the 1990s. It occupies a middle position in the functional-to-formal continuum: it is functional in being centrally concerned with the effects of pragmatics and semantics on morphosyntactic and phonological form, and it is formal in being interested only in systematic effects on linguistic form and in admitting the existence of arbitrary form where functional explanations fail. FDG is often compared to Role and Reference Grammar and Systemic Functional Linguistics as well as to various cognitive approaches to language. FDG sees itself as responsible for accounting for the linguistic component within a wider model of verbal interaction. The grammar is flanked by components that house those other aspects, including a conceptual component, a contextual component, and an output component. FDG is strongly typologically based in its insistence on investigating the formal and functional limits of human linguistic form. The basic unit of analysis in FDG is the discourse act. All linguistic utterances are analyzed at four separate levels, each of which is internally layered. The interpersonal level deals with the actional aspect of language use, including pragmatics, and accounts for such things as reference, identifiability, illocution, and pragmatic functions such as topic, focus, and contrast. The representational level deals with semantics and accounts for such things as ontological categories (entity types) and distinctions related to tense, aspect, modality, evidentiality, polarity, quantification, qualification, location, manner, valency, semantic functions, and parts-of-speech. The morphosyntactic level deals with morphology and syntax and accounts for such things as word and morpheme order, alignment, dummy insertion, agreement, raising and other displacement phenomena, and the internal structure of words. The phonological level deals with phonology and accounts for such things as prosody, stress, reduplication (to the extent that it is phonological), tone and intonation, syllable structure, and the language’s inventory of phonemes and suprasegmentals. The grammar is flanked by a storehouse often called the fund, which houses primitives that feed the grammatical process at each level. In addition to the lexicon proper, the fund contains the structicon (frames and templates) and the grammaticon (operators). Much recent and current work in FDG concerns itself in one way or another with matters of scope within layers, interactions between levels, interfaces, and mappings between units at different levels or layers. In addition to a descriptively and explanatorily adequate account of specific data, the goal is often to produce generalizations in the forms of hierarchies that produce clear predictions in terms of expected typological patterns, diachronic pathways, and acquisition processes. The author wishes to thank several members of the FDG community for sending crucial references or for assistance with important publications in languages with which she is not familiar, in particular John Connolly, Evelien Keizer, Kees Hengeveld, Lachlan Mackenzie, Hella Olbertz, Thomas Schwaiger, and an anonymous reviewer.

General Overviews

Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2008 is the standard reference work for Functional Discourse Grammar, while Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2015 and chapters 1 and 2 in Keizer 2015 are two shorter general introductions. Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2011a, Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2011b, and Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2012 are translations into Spanish, French, and Portuguese, respectively, of Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2015. Readable article-length introductions are also found in the introductory chapters to several edited collections and special issues, such as Genee, et al. 2016; Portero Muñoz 2018; and Keizer and Olbertz 2018a. Functional Discourse Grammar is a website that presents information about the theory as well as announcements, programs of conferences, workshops, and postgraduate courses; it also contains a regularly updated bibliography.

  • Functional Discourse Grammar.

    Contains a general introduction to the theory, a discussion list, and a bibliography and regularly updated information, including conference, workshop, and course announcements.

  • Genee, Inge, Evelien Keizer, and Daniel Garcia Velasco. 2016. The lexicon in Functional Discourse Grammar: Theory, typology, description. Linguistics 54.5: 877–906.

    DOI: 10.1515/ling-2016-0019

    A brief general introduction to the architecture and formalizations of the FDG model with special attention to the internal structure and context of the FDG lexicon and its interaction with other components of the grammar.

  • Hengeveld, Kees, and J. Lachlan Mackenzie. 2008. Functional Discourse Grammar: A typologically-based theory of language structure. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278107.001.0001

    The first complete overview of the Functional Discourse Grammar framework. Used as a reference work by many practitioners. Suitable for graduate-level linguistics courses, although not explicitly designed as a textbook.

  • Hengeveld, Kees, and J. Lachlan Mackenzie. 2011a. La Gramática Discursivo-Funcional. Translated by Daniel García Velasco. Moenia 17:5–45.

    Spanish translation of Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2015.

  • Hengeveld, Kees, and J. Lachlan Mackenzie. 2011b. La grammaire fonctionnelle-discursive: Stratification et interfaces. In L’architecture des théories linguistiques: Les modules et leurs interfaces. Edited by Jacques François, 155–182. Mémoires de la Société Linguistique de Paris, Nouvelle Série 20. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters.

    French translation of Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2015.

  • Hengeveld, Kees, and J. Lachlan Mackenzie. 2012. Gramática Discursivo-Funcional. Translated by Marize Dall’Aglio Hattnher. In Funcionalismo linguístico: Novas tendências teóricas. Edited by Edson R. de Sousa, 43–86. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Contexto.

    Portuguese translation of Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2015.

  • Hengeveld, Kees, and J. Lachlan Mackenzie. 2015. Functional Discourse Grammar. In The Oxford handbook of linguistic analysis. Edited by Bernd Heine and Heiko Narrog, 311–344. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199677078.013.0015

    A clear and concise article-length general introduction to the basic principles, architecture, and formalizations of the Functional Discourse Grammar framework. Includes a short discussion of the position of FDG in the landscape of linguistic theories. Translated into Spanish, French, and Portuguese, respectively, in Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2011a, Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2011b, and Hengeveld and Mackenzie 2012.

  • Keizer, Evelien. 2015. A Functional Discourse Grammar for English. Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    See chapter 1, “Why Functional Discourse Grammar? (pp. 1–19), and chapter 2, “The General Architecture of FDG” (pp. 20–42). This textbook contains an excellent general introduction to the principles, architecture, and formalizations of FDG in the first two chapters.

  • Keizer, Evelien, and Hella Olbertz. 2018a. Functional Discourse Grammar: A brief outline. In Recent developments in Functional Discourse Grammar. Edited by Evelien Keizer and Hella Olbertz, 1–15. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    DOI: 10.1075/slcs.205.01kei

    A brief overview of the main tenets and architecture of the theory, with special attention to transparency and language change, two issues currently the subject of much activity.

  • Portero Muñoz, Carmen. 2018. Derivational morphology and the lexicon-grammar competition in Functional Discourse Grammar: An overview. Word Structure 11.1: 1–13.

    DOI: 10.3366/word.2018.0112

    Contains a brief general introduction to the architecture and formalizations of the FDG model with special attention to the division of labor between the lexicon and the grammar with regard to the way in which derivation is handled.

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