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Communication: Definition 2

Joseph A. Devito in Human Communication (9th ed.) writes, “Communication occurs when one person (or more) sends and receives messages that are distorted by noise, occur within a context, have some effect, and provide some opportunity for feedback” (2).

Observations

1. This definition does not reference either meaning or intention, but the former is probably implied in “messages” and the latter in “sends and receives.”
2. This definition assumes, but does not explicitly state, that the sending and receiving is with another person. Devito does say “one person (or more),” but it is not at all clear how communication can happen with only one person. That is a theoretical question to pose, I suppose: Can one person alone communicate?
3. The statement “occur within a context” is true but perhaps so obvious as to be unhelpful, at least in a definition. After all, would anyone try to communicate in a vacuum? Is a vacuum not still a context? Is a non-context possible?

Communication: Definition 1

According to Katie Wales in A Dictionary of Stylisticscommunication can be defined as “the process of exchanging information or messages; and human language, in speech and writing, is the most significant and most complex communication system” (69).

Observations

I inserted the semicolon (after “messages”) where the original has a comma, just to make it clearer.This is a helpful definition that does not actually make reference to meaning.Just as it does not explicitly refer to meaning, this definition does not explicitly refer to intention, which is significant to communication. But the idea of “exchanging” probably implies intention.The word "process" makes sense, but it might make the definition sound a bit too scientific or mechanical -- something that communication (or at least the subcategory of human language) is not.The definition is broad enough to include all communication and helpfully distinguishes or reminds of the subcategory of human language, which is what most…

Towards a Definition of Communication

What is a good definition of communication? The next several posts here will consider several definitions from a variety of disciplines in the humanities (communication studies, of course, but also literary, cultural, and language studies).

Do you have a definition (personal or from some scholar) that you particularly like?

I have a preferred definition but I have never gone through this exercise of systematically considering and comparing a variety of definitions. And as a language teacher, I am also essentially a communication teacher -- and so we language teachers had better know what exactly we are teaching and talking about!

[Note: Any decent definition of communication will also mention or at least relate to the term meaning, so that will have to be the next round of definitions to consider.]