There is provided a processor designed to operate in a plurality of modes for processing vector and scalar instructions. Register files are each for storing scalar and vector data and address information. A parallel vector unit, coupled to the register files, includes functional units configurable to operate in a vector operation mode and a scalar operation mode. The vector unit includes an apparatus for tightly coupling the functional units to perform an operation specified by a current instruction. Under a vector operation mode, the vector unit performs, in parallel, a single vector operation on a plurality of data elements. The operations performed on the plurality of data elements are each performed by a different functional unit of the vector unit. Under a scalar operation mode, the vector unit performs a scalar operation on a data element received from the register files in a functional unit within the vector unit.