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Polyfunctionality means that any object can be used for different functions. So one could attribute polyfunctionality to a hammer , because with it one z. B. can repair a fence or smash objects.

In addition to its semantically self-explanatory general applicability, the term is used both in communication theory and in linguistics .

Polyfunctionality in communication theory and linguistics

In communication theory, one speaks of polyfunctionality when the sender sends different messages simultaneously, for example through what it says literally ( verbal language ) and through the way in which it says it: language-accompanying non-linguistic signals such as gestures , facial expressions , speaking speed , Volume and many other non-verbal signals ( paralinguistics ).

Let us consider the sentence as an example (e.g. in class ):

"Ernst Häckel wrote - in 1866 - the basic biogenetic law !"

With this sentence alone, various information is broadcast by the transmitter. Firstly, historical information is passed on. This is to be assigned to the content level. By emphasizing the year 1866 and the pause between 1866 and the Biogenetic Basic Law , the students are asked to pay attention. This function is (secondly) assigned to the process level; the teacher calls for attention and controls the communication process. A friendly facial expression signals a positive emotional attitude on the part of the teacher towards the students, which in turn belongs to the (third) relationship level and relaxes the interaction. If different messages are sent out and if these are to be categorized differently, this is called polyfunctionality . In general we can say that every message has polyfunctionality in this sense .

Polyfunctionality is also observed in linguistics , if z. B. one and the same word form belongs to different parts of speech . The word form “straight” can be understood as polyfunctional: as an adverb it stands for the meaning “just”, as an adjective for the meaning “without curve, curvature”; see. the sentences: “He just came” (= just) and “The way is straight” (= goes straight ahead).

See also