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Communication: Definition 3

In Relevance: Communication and Cognition, Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson define communication 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 representations already stored in the first device (1).


1. Like most definitions, this one appears somewhat mechanical, although Sperber and Wilson do avoid the use of the word code in their definition.
2. Also like many definitions, this one does not reference either meaning or intention.
3. Unlike many definitions, this one is not limited to language or even to human communication.
4. Sperber and Wilson actually go on to make similar observations. They also distinguish between two dominant models of communication, a code model and an inferential modelAccording to the code model, communication is achieved by encoding and decoding messages. [...] According to the inferential model, communication is achieved by producing and interpreting evidence (2).
5. Sperber and Wilson do not reject either of the models, although they consider the inferential model to be more robust, and the code model to be subservient to the inferential model.
6. Final observation: If you are interested in language and communication, Sperbers and Wilsons books is probably one of the best to read. They develop a specific theory, that of relevance, and it is in the context of broader discussions of language and communication.


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