Communication is a joint act of transferring of information between a source and a destination. [2]

Daniel Sperber & Denise Wilson characterize it as:

... a process involving two information-processing devices. One device modifies the physical environment of the other. As a result, the second device constructs representations similar to the representations already stored in the first device.

Examples include, fax machine transmissions, policeman directing traffic, or a conversation among intimates.


1   Process

Communication requires two coordinated actions and cannot be performed alone: [2]

  1. Sending
  2. Receiving

Communication is most effective when users use exactly the same code.

2   Function

Users communication to:

3   Kinds

4   Recognition

A theory of communication is a theory of action.[2]

How is language used to convey information?

Four paradigms capture the major ways language functions as a medium for communication:

  1. Encoding-Decoding
  2. Intentionalist
  3. Perspective-Taking
  4. Dialogic

Each paradigm focuses on a different dimension of language use and might be thought of as a necessary but insufficient description of the process.

These models differ on a variety of dimensions.

4.1   Encoding and Decoding

Often, language is described as a code that uses word, phrases, and sentences to convey meaning.

A code is a system that maps a set of signals onto a set of significates or meanings.

In the simplest kind of code, the mapping is one-to-one: for every signal there is exactly one meaning and for every meaning there is exactly one signal.

  • Morse code

Encoder/decoder models posit that meaning is a property of messages.

4.2   Shannon and Weaver's model

The basic model of communication presents it as a simple linear process.

![Shannon communication][2]

A communication system consists of five parts:[1]

  1. An information source
  2. A transmitter
  3. A channel
  4. A receiver
  5. A destination
  • For a telephone:
    • the transmitter is a telephone handset
    • the channel is a wire
      • the signal is an electrical current
    • the receiver is a telephone handset
  • For a conversation:
    • the transmitter is a person's vocal tract
    • the channel is air
      • the signal is a series of sound waves
    • the receiver is a person's easy

## (Information) source

A source decides which message to send to the receiving terminal.[1]

## Transmitter

A transmitter encodes the message to produce a signal suitable for transmission over the channel.[1]

  • In telegraphy, we have an encoding process which produces a sequence of dots, dashes, and spaces on the channel corresponding to the message.
  • In telephony, the operation consists merely of changing sound pressure into a proportional electrical current.

A transmitter sends the signal over the channel to the receiver.

Note: Transmission is the process of sending a signal over a transmission medium.

# Classification

We may roughly classify communicate systems into three main categories:[1]

  1. Discrete
  2. Continuous
  3. Mixed

## Discrete communication system

A discrete communication system is one in which both the message and the signal are a sequence of discrete symbols.

  • telegraphy, where the message is a sequence of letters and the signal a sequences of dots, dashes, ans space
  • teletype

## Continuous communication system

A continuous communication system is one in which the message and signal are both treated as continuous functions.

  • radio
  • television

## Mixed communication system

A mixed system is one in which both discrete and continuous variables appears.

  • PCM transmission of speech

# Problems

Shannon and Weaver identify three levels of problems in the study of communication:

  1. Technical problem
  2. Semantic problem
  3. Effectiveness problem
  1. The technical problem is the problem of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point (combating noise).[1]
  2. The semantic problem is the problem of using symbols to precisely convey the desired meaning.
  3. The effectiveness problem addresses how effectively the received meaning affects conduct in the desired way; that is, that the actual message is the one selected from a set of possible messages.

The purpose of studying communication at each of these levels is to understand how may improved the:

  1. Accuracy of the process
  2. Efficiency of the process

[1]: A Mathematical Theory of Communication [2]: Introduction To Communication Studies

4.3   Intentionalism

Simply viewing linguistic communication as coding does not do justice to the subtlety of communication.

Consider the relation of communicative intention and comprehension.

  • "Can you shut the door" can mean:

    1. Requesting the auditor shut the door
    2. Asking whether the auditor is physically able to shut the door
    3. Asking whether door's physical condition is such that it could be shut
    4. Asking whether shutting the door is permitted

    Typically, only one of these meanings is intended to be understood.

A listener who has understood an utterance has grasped the particular sense in which the speaker intended the words to be understood.

There is abundant evidence to support an Intentionalist view of language.

  • Bank clerks asked "Can you tell me what the interest rate is?" are like respond to the utterance as a request ("Tell me the interest rate.") rather than its literal force.

Listeners demonstrate considerable mental agility in divining speaker's communicative intentions.

  • Regan vs. Stockman experiment

SEE: Grice SEE: Relevance Theory

Intentionalist models posit that meaning resides in speaker's intentions.

4.4   Perspective-Taking

How people understand communicative intention is unclear.

Identifying another's communicative intention is not always a simple or straightforward manners in part because people do not always perceive the world in the same way.

The meaning of an utterance is grounded in a set of implicit assumptions about what the communicators know, believe, feel, and think.

People experience the world differently.

To accommodate this fact, communicators must take into each other's perspectives when formulating and interpreting utterances.

  • Spacial perspective-taking
  • "John is wearing an ugly tie" assumes we agree on ugly.

Sometimes, the content of another's point of view is not obvious.

  • Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist, demonstrated in classical studies of childhood egocentrism that the ability to apprehend other's perspectives represents a major milestone in the child's intellectual development. Young children seem to think the world appears to others as it does to them.
  • Estimating the likelihood of of someone identifying an individual in a photograph. People overestimated people they recognize and underestimate people they don't.

Limitations on appreciating other's perspectives reduces the effectiveness of verbal communication.

  • Can still be ambiguous

    • "That man in the ugly tie" assumes we agree on ugly.

    Unclear "ugly to who?"

    • Requires coordination
    • Salience seems like Gestalt

Perspective-taking models posit that meaning derives from an addressee's point of view.

4.5   Dialogism

The previous paradigms characterize communication in terms of individual acts of production and comprehension.

Communicative exchanges that relied exclusively on such an arrangement would impose a heavy cognitive burden on the participants.

Producing spontaneous speech requires the speak to perform two cognitively demands tasks simultaneously:

  1. Conceptualizing the information to be conveyed
  2. Formulating a verbal message that is capable of conveying it

The addressee's task is equally challenging.

Speech is evanescent; once it has been articulated, it must be processed and comprehended in real time.

Often, conversational speech is produced at a rate of 2.5 words per second, in noisy environment, and with less than-perfect articulation.

People are able to communicate so well because:

  1. The exquisite responsiveness of conversation (and similar highly interactive forms) permits them to formulate messages that closely attuned to each other's immediate knowledge and perspectives, which reduces the cognitive demand of production and comprehension. The speaker can determine virtually instantaneously whether the addressee has identified communicative intentions correctly. Likewise the auditor can reveal the nature of his or her understanding as it developers.

Communication is a joint action similar to a waltz, a duet, or shaking hands.

IE: One does not shakes hand if one person simply shakes the hands of the other.

Conversations are not a orderly process of alternating between role of speaker and auditor. Sentences are left unfinished, listeners interrupt, topics change abruptly, and what is left unsaid may convey more than what is explicitly stated. This is not a defective version of an ideal form.

In the Dialogic view, conversational speech is the model for communication, and a communicative exchange represents a joint accomplishment by the participants.

Consequently, meaning is "socially situated", deriving from the particular circumstances of interaction and individual contributions are not meaningful apart from the situation.

  • Listener needs to validate intention

    • Threat is a not a threat until the listener understands it is
    • Intention is not truly so until it has been established as such
  • There are different parts to this
    • Intentionally suggesting an intention (e.g. intent to murder) and fulfilling inteion
    • Locutionary act? Interlocutionary act
      • Sort of like suggestions and acknowledgement
    • "have a seat" "no thank you"

Dialogic models posit that meaning is an emergent property of the participants' joint activity.

[1]: Searle, Speech Acts

[2]Clark, Bly, 1995, "Pragmatics and Discourse

A lot of the themes in this lecture related to motivation and employee qualities are what I'd lump in the category of "dog whistles."