This is probably not the function you are interested in. Look at syslog(3) for the C library interface. This page only documents the bare kernel system call interface.
The type argument determines the action taken by syslog.
Quoting from kernel/printk.c:
Only function 3 is allowed to non-root processes.
The kernel log buffer The kernel has a cyclic buffer of length LOG_BUF_LEN (4096, since 1.3.54: 8192, since 2.1.113: 16384) in which messages given as argument to the kernel function printk() are stored (regardless of their loglevel).
The call syslog (2,buf,len) waits until this kernel log buffer is nonempty, and then reads at most len bytes into the buffer buf. It returns the number of bytes read. Bytes read from the log disappear from the log buffer: the information can only be read once. This is the function executed by the kernel when a user program reads /proc/kmsg.
The call syslog (3,buf,len) will read the last len bytes from the log buffer (nondestructively), but will not read more than was written into the buffer since the last `clear ring buffer' command (which does not clear the buffer at all). It returns the number of bytes read.
The call syslog (4,buf,len) does precisely the same, but also executes the `clear ring buffer' command.
The call syslog (5,dummy,idummy) only executes the `clear ring buffer' command.
The loglevel The kernel routine printk() will only print a message on the console, if it has a loglevel less than the value of the variable console_loglevel (initially DEFAULT_CONSOLE_LOGLEVEL (7), but set to 10 if the kernel commandline contains the word `debug', and to 15 in case of a kernel fault - the 10 and 15 are just silly, and equivalent to 8). This variable is set (to a value in the range 1-8) by the call syslog (8,dummy,value). The calls syslog (type,dummy,idummy) with type equal to 6 or 7, set it to 1 (kernel panics only) or 7 (all except debugging messages), respectively.
Every text line in a message has its own loglevel. This level is DEFAULT_MESSAGE_LOGLEVEL - 1 (6) unless the line starts with d is a digit in the range 1-7, in which case the level is d. The conventional meaning of the loglevel is defined in '' as follows:
An attempt was made to change console_loglevel or clear the kernel message ring buffer by a process without root permissions.