COMMUNICATION THEORY AND LINGUISTIC THEORY
V. B. Kassevich
(St. Petersburg, Russia)
(// The Speaker and the Listener: A Linguistic Personality, Text, Problems of Learning.- SPb., 2001.- P. 70-75)
The present small report does not claim to resolve global problems concerning the relation between the linguistic theory, or linguistics, and the communication theory. Leaving alone the available answers, not all the questions associated with these fields can be explicitly stated now.
To begin with, it should be mentioned that, apparently, the treatment of linguistics as linguistic theory will not be generally sustained. So far it has been widely assumed that language is a static system, "competence", taking into account a system of rules of linguistic units' structure - sentences, word phrases (groups, constituents), words, etc. There is certain logic in postgenerativism's denial of the concept of "a rule", so significant in early periods of generativism's development, as well as in turning to the concept of "constraint" instead: rules suggest a dynamic approach, approach in terms of linguistic units' construction, whereas constraint points rather to structure concepts - to "what does not occur" in language.
However, in postgenerativism - in its Minimalist Program - there appear simultaneous ideas about relationship between competence and "performance", when phonetic and logic forms are regarded as interfaces leading to systems responsible for instructions for both articulatory-perceptual and cognitive-interpretive mechanisms respectively (see, f.e., Kassevich, 1998). In other terms, in postgenerativism, unlike generativism, an outflow into speech activity is allowed.
This concept is of a crucial importance. Insisting on the static character of a language system model, on its supplementation by speech activity rules, may lead the system to becoming conceptually imperfect, defective: designing a working, dynamic system, a linguist will build the system lacking this most important property. Speech activity rules concerning language system functioning should be an integral part of the language model developed by a linguist. From these results the equation of linguistics and linguistic theory is formulated above.
Speech activity is a system of actions aimed at speech production and perception; within the framework of this activity information exchange occurs. Communication, in its turn, is most frequently defined as "the process of information exchange" (Glushkov, 1979: 255). There springs up a fair question: what is the correlation between the general communication theory (which has been much spoken about recently) and linguistics as the linguistic theory?
On the one hand, the notion of communication is seemingly wider than the notion of speech activity, because communication apparently includes the fields beyond speech activity - such as linguistic manipulation, argumentation, non-speech sign vehicles, etc. (for more details, see below). On the other hand, communication is narrower than the field of linguistics, if we presume that the general theory of linguistics comprises the language system theory, the theory of speech activity as system functioning, and the theory of text as a product of this functioning.
The most adequate approach to elucidation of the correlation between the two fields and, respectively, two theories, is, evidently, functional: if we proceed from functions, then the linguistic theory - linguistics - studies linguistic means, the process of their use, and the product of this process while communication theory deals with the purpose of linguistic and non- linguistic means' usage as well as the result achieved by relevant processes. At this point an intersection field can be traced, which we will not dwell on: first and foremost it is the speech activity theory in linguistics, and the theory of illocutionary and perlocutionary forces in particular. An essential difference should be mentioned (which stems from the preceding): conceptually, linguistics may construct abstract models, independent of the question whether they are adequate to their natural prototype, but the communication theory uses as its basis the modeling of dynamic relations in society, between people, and, in consequence, can in no way digress from "the human factor" (the word phrase of questionable semantics but in widespread use).
Since the study of speech activity is in the focus of the communication theory yet, though at a specific viewing angle, "communicatology" could arm itself with an array of linguistic concepts: speech typology (Kholodovich, 1967), and the concept of the so-called linguistic existence (Konrad, 1959), and the dialog theory, starting from Yakubinsky's pioneer works, the text theory, its semantic aspects especially, let alone the mentioned above theory of speech acts.
The dialog theory (not sufficiently developed, admittedly) is of particular importance. The communication theory is object-centered, it is not concerned with monologs addressing space simply because they do not create a communication field. Communication is always dialogical; its subject (addressant) generates a text in a wide sense, that is, including verbal and non-verbal components in order to change the informational state of a certain object (addressee), either individual or, more often, plural and consequently his behavior. Respectively, the addressant should have maximum of information on the addressee: he cannot expect to change an unknown object, a "black box" method would hardly be profitable here. The more adequate and detailed an object- addressee model is, the less effort should be directed to providing feedback, because a reliable model makes it possible to predict accurately enough the effect of communicative efforts. From this results the relationship between the communication theory and the deservedly gaining popularity reflexive control theory based precisely on economy of effort for feedback signals' retrieval through predictability of the controlled object's reactions.
The two aspects of speech activity - speech production and perception - prove to be equally relevant to the communication theory, which expands substantially the contents of both. As it was mentioned above, dealing with speech production a researcher of communication should analyze not only verbal, but also paraverbal text components. In an ordinary speech contact such components are facial expressions, gestures, poses, more detailed than in traditional linguistic analysis attention to intonation and other suprasegmental text parameters. A variety of speech tempos typical of different etnolinguistic communities should be taken into consideration. In connection with this we can't but note once again that a switchover to patter of many of our TV- and radio journalists actually excludes from communication act considerable groups of Russian viewers/listeners, unable to adapt the unusual speech tempo (compare Kassevich, 1996).
Among the aspects of speech production relevant to communicative analysis there are also its rhetoric characteristics. Rhetoric can be defined as a complex of means designed to provide perlocutionary effect of a statement (text). Whereas in a literary text this effect is aesthetic in character, in oratorical, publicist and propaganda texts rhetoric devices are at the same time means of informational compression (or, by contrast, of the text redundancy, pleonasticity increase) and listener's incentive to look at the offered information through information of some different kind apt to be aesthetically and emotionally marked. To illustrate, the use of metaphor such as a Soviet cliche "trudovaya vakhta" (labor duty) on the one hand, substitutes an extended statement saying that labor for the welfare of Motherland is equivalent to honorable mission of a warrior guarding his companions-in-arms and/or peaceful citizens; on the other hand, this metaphor calls for pathetic attitude to labor (as it is so highly valued) and development of enthusiasm of creative labor. "Force-pumping" of epithets and predicates (the Party is mind, honor and conscience…) naturally raises text's pleonasticity and contributes to the force increase of corresponding concepts (in the meaning attributed to this term by Bebee) (see Bebee, 1985).
In an equivalent manner standard argumentation schemes are important in the processes of speech production. These schemes possess etnolinguistic specificity. From pioneer works by Luriya it is known, for example, that traditionalist community representatives are insensitive to formal logic laws (what is, generally speaking, not identical with the statement about "savage's" pralogical thinking (see Kassevich, 1996); they cannot conclude a common syllogism of the type
In the Far North, where there is always snow, bears are white. The New Land is in the Far North. What color are bears there? A common answer is that a respondent has never been to the New Land and, therefore, cannot say what the bears are like there. Consequently, for the texts addressed to traditionalist community representatives' comprehension, argumentation based on formally logic schemes will be ineffective; in this case, references to precedents, authoritative texts and personalities, the use of tropes, etc. are required.
Language structures proper, conveying various logic constructions, may also have idioetnic specificity. For example, in some languages (mostly with SOV word order), given cause and effect relations' expression, the effect precedes the cause more often, and a general scheme of a corresponding syntactic structure is as follows: "S is (not) P. If we ask why, the answer is because Q". This does not mean that another expression of the given semantics is impossible, but the presented scheme is more effective rhetorically.
Recent trends are to consider PR - public relations as a supplement to the communication theory (compare: Pocheptsov, 1999). In Russian educational institutions PR-specialists have already been trained for rather a long time; their educational programs are based mostly on the study of communication technologies.
It should be mentioned that for a comparably short period of time the term PR has undergone noticeable transformations. Originally, in the English-speaking countries, where the term arose, it was meant for the following situations. When a military unit was quartered in some settlement or near it, a post of Public Relations Officer was introduced by the unit's command. His tasks included contacts with the local authorities and population representatives, explanation of necessity for the unit to stay in that locality, examination of complaints about inconveniences and damages caused by some servicemen, etc. Firms, shops, enterprises, and other structures introduced services of that kind.
As we can see, PR in those cases was directed to the creation of a positive "image" of servicemen, firm employees, etc., but it was still very far from the actually "agitprop" (propaganda) appearance PR has acquired in our time. In modern PR its "black" variety stands out sharply focusing on informational extermination of political or economic opponents; naturally enough there appear information killers (the same as PR-killers), etc. The profession of a so-called spindoctor is slightly closer to the traditional interpretation of PR; he is called to correct, "treat" for unfavorable informational situation; for example, by appropriate information measures to do away with undesirable consequences of this or that politician's incautious statements.
In these varieties of PR (in fact, there are much more of them), a language component is undoubtedly present, but the study of relevant texts applies to linguistics no greater than the literary critic analysis of works of art.
It does not follow from this that PR texts are akin to literary works of art, but still there is certain nearness. PR texts are intentionally official, utilitarian, whereas a literary text is, according to Stepun (Stepun, 1999: 257), an autonomous "aesthetic cosmos". Its autonomy tells on the fact that transient, "walkthrough" characters are not very typical for literary texts (detective stories are an exception), while PR-serials with repeated characters, heroes and antitypes, are rather normal. Affinity in texts can be seen through their rhetoric - in the use of similar stylistic means.
One more variety of PR texts is an advertisement; in advertising industry the object centering is expressed very saliently. Standing apart is e-PR, PR in computer environment, and first of all in the Internet.
Linguists and "communicatologists" may and should cooperate, although to this time their contacts have been rather sporadic.
- Glushkov (Ed.) Cybernetics Dictionary.- Kiev, 1979.
- Kassevich. Elements of General Linguistics.- M., 1977.
- Kassevich. Buddhism. Picture of the World. Language.- SPb., 1996.
- Konrad. About "linguistic existence" //Japanese Linguistic Digest.- M., 1959.
- Pocheptsov. Communicative Technologies of the XX century.- M,; Kiev, 1999.
- Stepun. Life and Creativity// Logos, 1999.- N 4.
- Kholodovich. About Speech Typology//Historic-Philological Researches.- M., 1967.
- Bebee. Morphology. A Study of the Relation between Meaning and Form.- Amsterdam; Philadelphia, 1985.
Text in Word
Vadim B. KASEVICH
Professor of Burmese and general linguistics,
Vice-Rector for Educational Policy and Curriculum,
Director of the Laboratory for Computer Application
in the Humanities at St. Petersburg University.
Back to LIBRARY
Back to HOME PAGE