Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives

By George A. Miller | Go to book overview

1 PSYCHOLOGY AND COMMUNICATION

George A. Miller

There is an old and not very funny story about stepping on a dog's tail. If the dog barks, you can call it an accident, but if you step on his tail in New York and he barks in London, you have to call it communication.

Certainly there are many different kinds of communication and, for all I know, stepping on a dog's tail may be one of them, although I hope not. The point of the story, if it has any point at all, is that "communication" is a very abstract word. It can be accomplished by an endless variety of means. If we try to say in the most general terms what all the different kinds of communication have in common, it comes down to something like this: Communication occurs when events in one place or at one time are closely related to events in another place or at another time. For example, the vocal sounds made when one speaks into a radio microphone are closely related to the vocal sounds produced wherever and whenever an audience happens to hear them. Any physical process that has this capacity to span space and time can be used as a communication system. Human speech, which provides a way for events in the nervous system of the speaker to affect events in the nervous system of another, is one kind of communication, but it is only one of many different ways the abstract concept of communication can be realized in a practical form.

It is in this very abstract sense that we can talk about communication between machines, or the communication of diseases, or the hereditary communication of traits from parents to their

-3-

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Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • The Authors v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • 1: Psychology and Communication 3
  • 2: Psychology and the Theory of Language 13
  • 3: The Realm of Syntax 23
  • 4: The Realm of Meaning 36
  • 5: Biological Aspects of Language 49
  • 6: The Brain and Language 61
  • 7: Speech Development and Bird Song: Are There Any Parallels? 73
  • 8: Primate Communication 84
  • 9: Teaching Apes to Communicate 95
  • 10: The Development of Language in Children 107
  • 11 - Learning to Read 117
  • 12: The Speech Code 128
  • 13: Artificial Speech 141
  • 14: Language and Perception 149
  • 15: Language and Memory 159
  • 16: Language and Thought 172
  • 17: Language and Probability 185
  • 18: Communication and Computers 196
  • 19: Communication in Small Groups 208
  • 20: Mass Communication 219
  • 21: Nonverbal Communication 231
  • 22: Persuasion 242
  • 23: Language and Psychopathology 256
  • 24: The Sociology of Language 268
  • 25: Translation and Bilingualism 280
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 291
  • Index 299
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