Language and Communication

Language and Communication

Language and Communication

Language and Communication

Excerpt

This manuscript was begun in the summer of 1946, when the author first tried to select a text for an undergraduate course entitled The Psychology of Speech and Communication. No text could be found. The choice was between assigning six or seven different books or no book at all. This annoyance provided a stimulus. Now, five years and two mimeographed versions later, the response to this stimulus has been completed. The outcome is a book aimed at upper-class undergraduate or graduate courses in the psychology of communication.

Communication, if it is anything at all, is a social event. The spread of information through a group of people is one of the most important social events that can occur. When one tries to assemble the facts about this important social event, however, the data come from all fields of science. The diversity of sources has made the job an exacting one. One is never certain that something of vital importance is not hiding in an obscure transaction of a mathematical, philological, phonetic, sociological, anthropological, philosophical, or engineering society. The author does not want to suggest that he has either read all this literature or evaluated it correctly. This text is not an encyclopedia of linguistics. There are a lot of facts here, but certainly not all of them.

The purpose was to pull together in one book the more important approaches to the study of communicative behavior. In an introductory and necessarily superficial way the book tries to suggest the breadth of the spectrum of linguistic studies. These various approaches are discussed in terms that make sense to a modern psychologist.

The bias is behavioristic--not fanatically behavioristic, but certainly tainted by a preference. There does not seem to be a more scientific kind of bias, or, if there is, it turns out to be behaviorism after all. The careful reader will discover occasional subjective lapses. Undoubtedly in these instances, a scientific approach is possible, but the author was unable to find one or think of one. The argument nonetheless goes as far down the behavioristic path as one can clearly see the way. It is necessary to be explicit about this behavioristic bias, for there is much talk in the pages that follow about patterns and organizations. Psychological interest in patterning is traditionally subjective, but not necessarily so. Discussion of the patterning of symbols and the influences of context run through the manuscript like clotheslines on which the variegated laundry of language and communication is hung out to dry. It . . .

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