This collection of papers offers an alternative to mainstream functional linguistics on two points. Especially in American linguistics, function and structure are often viewed almost as polar opposites; in addition, structure is often understood as being only a matter of linguistic form — or expression — as opposed to content. The book tries to illustrate why function and structure must be understood as mutually dependent in relation to language — and why the most interesting aspect of language structure is the way it structures the content side of language. In this, the book represents a reaffirmation of traditional concerns in structural linguistics, especially with respect to the structural integrity of individual languages — but with a reversal of traditional priority: structure is not autonomous, but must be understood on the basis of function. Without being hostile to typological and universal generalizations, the articles suggest that similarities between languages can only be responsibly discussed on the basis of an understanding that includes a respect for language differences.
The book contains discussions of a number of different languages including Nahuatl, Danish Sign Language, French, and Tlapanec, and focuses on the way meaning is organized in the grammar of Danish. A final section sums up theoretical perspectives.