Structuralism refers to the idea that the components of a thing must be understood in order to fully comprehend the entirety of the thing. As this applies to linguistics, it suggests that understanding structure is essential to understanding what language is meant to convey. It places heavy emphasis on understanding and categorizing parts of speech like noun phrases and verb phrases as well as other aspects of linguistic structure in order to determine meaning. Saussure, the person credited with the concept of structural linguistics, saw language as a system.
Functionalism emerged in contrast to these ideas. Functionalism prioritizes thinking about the reasoning that creates language and the intended meaning of communication rather than about strictly categorizing parts of language that create meaning. In functionalism, structures emerge organically from the intent to communicate, whereas structuralism divorces all functionality from its assessment of the makeup of language structure.
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