The Meaning of "Relationship" in Interpersonal Communication

By Dainton, Marianne | Journal of Marriage and Family, May 1999 | Go to article overview

The Meaning of "Relationship" in Interpersonal Communication


Dainton, Marianne, Journal of Marriage and Family


The Meaning of "Relationship" in Interpersonal Communication. Richard L. Conville & L. Edna Rogers (Eds.). Westport, CT: Praeger. 1998. 216 pp. ISBN 0-275-95211-8. $59.95 cloth.

In their introduction to this volume, Richard L. Conville and L. Edna Rogers assert that the term, "relational communication," has become synonymous with the term, "interpersonal communication." Conville and Rogers contend that the concept of relationship has yet to be fully developed, however. This book reflects an effort to articulate the meaning and use of the term in interpersonal communication.

In the first chapter, Jo Liska maintains that "conceptualization of human social relationships can benefit from observations of the social relationships of other species" (p. 2). Liska presents a semiotic analysis of the types of signs necessary to manage social relationships across species. John Stewart's chapter details an "ontological definition" that focuses on process in relationships. Stewart uses philosophical narratives to argue that the process of association, itself, is central to any understanding of relationship. Stuart J. Sigman builds on Stewart's chapter by presenting the assumptions of a social communication view of relationship. He concludes that relationships are not fixed entities, per se, but are categories of meaning that are created and sustained by the process of communication. Similarly, using a pragmaticrelational communication perspective, L. Edna Rogers concludes that "relationships are defined as emergent, social structures conjointly created by the members in the mutually influencing, interrelating process of communication" (p. 79). The final philosophical-theoretical approach is presented by Robert D. McPhee. McPhee provides a summary of Giddens' structuration theory and argues that the incorporation of a relationship level will help to resolve the micro-macro problematic associated with the theory. …

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