In linguistics sentence function refers to a speaker’s purpose in uttering a specific sentence, phrase, or clause whether a listener is present or not is sometimes irrelevant. It answers the question ‘why has this been said?’ the four basic sentence function include: the declarative, interrogative, exclamatory and the imperative. These correspond to a statement, question, exclamation and command respectively.

Typically, a sentence goes from one function to the next through a combination of changes in wider order, intonation, and the addition of certain auxiliaries or particles, or other times by providing a special verbal form.

  1. Declarative sentence: This expresses a statement of fact. This is the most common kind of sentence function in any language, function of a sentence. What this means essentially is that when a language modifies a sentence in order to form a question or give a command, the base form will always be declarative. In its most basic sense, a declarative sentence states an idea (either objectively or subjectively on the part of the speaker) for the sheer purpose of transferring Intel. In writing, a statement will end with a period or a full stop. Some examples in Ifeoma Okoye’s The Fourth World are:
  2. He has something urgent to tell me (1)
  3. You are free to do whatever you want (3)
  4. I hope Joe keeps his promise to take care of Nodu’s school fees (12)
  5. You don’t argue with the nurses here (44)
  6. Her father had no house in Umuoba (75)
  7. You are the devil incarnate (80)
  8. Something tells me I might not survive (11)
  9. I promise you I won’t be long (102)
  10. I’ll be too anxious to sleep if I go home (39)
  11. Interrogative sentence: this is the sentence we use in asking questions. Responses to those questions are given in declarative sentences.

An interrogative sentence asks question and hence ends with a question mark. In speech, it almost universally ends in a rising inflection. Its effort is to try to gather information that is presently unknown to the interrogator or to seek validation for a preconceived notion held. Beyond seeking confirmation or contradiction, sometimes it is approval or permission that is sought as well, among other reasons one could have for posing a question. An interrogative is a call for information. Some examples in Okoye’s The Fourth World are:

  1. Where do you think you’re going? (1)
  2. Who are you to defy the hospital rules with such boldness? (15)
  3. Have you been here for long? (36)
  4. What did your father talk to you about Chira? (38)
  5. Have you bought something for supper? (42)
  6. What did the nurse want you for mama? (47)
  7. Why are you disturbing me? (57)
  8. Is that an order? (267)
  9. What’s the problem this time? (250)
  10. How did Chikeson send the letter, Ogom? (171)

Okoye’s use of interrogative sentences helped the reader to get more information. It also brings about dialogue among characters.

  • Imperative sentence: An imperative sentence gives anything from a command or order to a request, direction or instruction. Imperative sentences are more intentional than exclamatory sentences and do require an audience; as their aim is to get the person (s) being addressed either to do or to not do something. And although this function usually deals with the immediate temporal vicinity, its scope can be extended. An imperative can end in either a period or an exclamation point depending on delivery. In many instances, the subject of an imperative sentence is understood to be you and is this not stated. In other instances, the sentences may be phrased as a question, but does not end with a question mark. Some examples from the text include the following:
  1. Fetch the orderly at once (13)
  2. Get out of here now! (15)
  3. Go now! (15)
  4. Will you leave now! (17)
  5. Come to the ward at once the nurse ordered (44)
  6. Stop there Chira (114)
  7. Get out of here! (80)
  8. Get out of my sight before I commit murder! (83)
  9. I said shut up before you make our ancestors turn in their grave (83)
  10. Stop there Chiralum! (89)

Okoye uses imperative sentence at one point or the other to describe the character trait of a particular character and at the same time the situation of things at a particular time i.e. emotional outburst.

  1. Exclamatory sentence: it is a sentence that is released because of emotional outburst, and it expresses strong emotion: many exclamatory sentences are very strongly stated declarative sentences. An exclamatory sentence ends with an exclamation point. It expresses fear, wonder, joy, surprise, pain etc. some examples of exclamatory sentences in the text are:
  2. There she is! (13)
  3. Nurse! Nurse! Nurse! (44)
  4. You devil! (80)
  5. You shameless lair! (80)
  6. Shaa-rr-up! (83)
  7. Please stop, Chira! (114)
  8. Miss K junior! Sto-op! (207)
  9. Chira! (208)
  10. Oh no! (286
  11. No! (322)
  12. Oh no! (322)

Okoye in The Fourth World uses exclamatory sentences to show different character’s emotional outburst as a result of fear, pain, and surprise, joy etc. so that readers can empathize with such characters. For instance, the incident between Chira and the priest, one sees how helpless the fatherless can be and due to the priest has decided not to officiate Akalaka’s burial; he devised every means to intimidate poor Chira by calling her names. The use of this sentence type paints a vivid picture in the mind’s eye of the reader about what is happening and how it is happening at a particular time.

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