From Language to Communication

From Language to Communication

From Language to Communication

From Language to Communication


Donald G. Ellis is Professor of Communications at the University of Hartford and he also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Rhetoric, Language, and Culture.


This book grew out of my conviction that language is the fundamental tool of communication and experience. The study of language has always been inherently fascinating to me. Unfortunately, too much of it is either written for scholars who have specialized training or overly popularized and simplistic. The aim of this book is to strike the middle ground.

I think the first edition of From Language to Communication successfully outlined basic issues in the relation between language and communication. It introduced students to elementary concepts in linguistics and then applied these concepts to interaction processes. This second edition updates much of that work and adds many topics that were not included in the first edition. Every chapter has been rewritten, some of them quite extensively, and chapter 8 is new. I have tried to make this edition of the book even more accessible to the introductory reader. There are many more examples, and I have worked hard to improve the readability of the book.

In this book, I am concerned with language issues of many kinds, but not all kinds. Language and the linguistic system that we learn are fundamentally a part of the communication process. As such, this volume includes significant issues in the study of language and communication that represent a perspective -- a standpoint from which to view the field of study. I should say something more about the view from my particular standpoint.

Communication is a misunderstood discipline. The term communication can conjure up such diverse images as telephones, computers, television, intimate relations, the Internet, radio, and public speaking. All of these are in one way or another communicative. But using symbols to constitute and interpret reality is an essential feature of each. The technology of computers, television, and telephones make it possible for messages to reach larger numbers of us at greater distances more quickly. The sheer amount and variety of language we are exposed to has increased dramatically in the past decades. But whether a message is fashioned from the grunts of two cavemen arguing over a bone or finds its way into your living . . .

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