You are on page 1of 7

Tema 3:

El proceso de comunicación.
Funciones del lenguaje. La lengua
en uso. La negociación del

Table of contents:
1.The communication process.
1.1. Different communication models
1.1.1. Transmission Model of communication (Shannon & Weaver)
Level of problems in the analysis of communication
Advantages of Shannon and Weaver’s model
Weaknesses of the transmission model of communication.
1.1.2. Roman Jakobson model of communication.
1.1.3. Stuart Hall’s Model of communication.

2.The functions of language.

2.1. Linguistic Functions.
2.2. Function as a fundamental principle of Language.

3.The use of Language.

4. Negotiation of meaning.

1. The communication process.
Communication, the exchange of meanings between individual through a
common system of symbols, has been of concern to countless scholars
since the time of ancient Greece. The English literary critic I. A. Richards
offered one of the first -and in some ways still the best- definitions of
communication as a discrete aspect of human enterprise:
1.1. Different communication models.
1.1.1. Transmission Model of Communication (Shannon & Weaver)
Here I will outline and critique a particular, very well-known model of
communication developed by Shannon and Weaver (1949), as the
prototypical example of a transmissive model of communication: a model
which reduces communication to a process of “transmitting information”.
Shannon & Weaver’s model is one which is widely accepted as one of the
main seeds out of which Communication Studies has grown. Claude
Shannon and Warren Weaver were not social scientists but engineers
working for Bell Telephone Labs in the United States. Their goal was to
ensure the maximum efficiency of telephone cables and radio waves. They
developed a model of communication which was intended to assist in
developing a mathematical theory of communication.

message message
Info Transmitter Receiver Destin-
Source ation

C & W’s original model consisted of five elements, plus a dysfunctional factor:
a) An information source, which produces a message.
b) A transmitter, which encodes the message into signals.
c) A channel, to which signals are adapted for transmission.
d) A receiver, which “decodes” the message from the signal.
e) A destination, where the message arrives.
f) A sixth element, noise is a dysfunctional factor: any interference with
the message travelling along the channer (such as “static” on the
telephone or radio) which may lead to the signal received being
different from that sent.
Shannon and Weaver’s transmission model is the best-known example of
the “informational” approach to communication. Although no serious
communication theorist would still accept it, it has also been the most
influential model of communication which has yet been developed, and it
reflects a common sense understanding of what communication is.

Levels of problems in the analysis of communication.

Shannon and Weaver argued that there were three levels of
problems of communication:
1. The technical problem: how accurately can the message be
2. The semantic problem: how precisely is the meaning
3. The effectiveness problem: how effectively does the received
meaning affect behaviour?
Shannon and Weaver somewhat naively assumed that sorting out
Level A problems would lead to improvements at the other levels.
Although the concept of “noise” does make some allowance for the way in
which messages may be distorted, this frames the issue in terms of incidental
“interference” with the sender’s intentions rather than in terms of a central and
purposive process of interpretation. The concept reflects Shannon and Weaver’s
concern with accuracy and efficiency.

Advantages of Shannon and Weaver’s model.

Particular models are useful for some purposes and less useful for others.
Like any process of mediation, a model foregrounds some features and
backgrounds others. The strengths of Shannon and Weaver’s model are:
- Its simplicity
- Its generality, and
- Its quantifiability.
Weaknesses of the transmission model of communication.
The transmission model is not merely a over-simplification but a
dangerously misleading misrepresentation of the nature of hujan
communication. This is particularly important since it underlies the
“commonsense” understanding of what communication is. Whilst such usage
may be adequate for many everyday purposes, in the context of the study of
media and communication, the concept needs critical reframing.

1.1.2. Roman Jakobson model of communication.

In 1960 a structural linguist (Roman Jakobson, drawing on work by Bühler
dating from the 1930’s),proposed a model of interpersonal verbal
communication which moved beyond the basic transmission model of
communication and highlighted the importance of the context and social
contexts involved. He noted elsewhere that the efficiency of a speech event
demands the use of a common code by its participants. He outlines what
he regards as the six constitutive factors in any act of verbal communication.

‘The addresser sends a message to the addressee. To be operative the message requires a context
referred to (‘referent’ in another, somewhat ambivalent, nomenclature), seizable by the addressee,
and either verbal or capable of being verbalized, a code fully, or at least partially, common to the
addresser and addressee (or in other words, to the encoder and decoder of the message); and finally, a
contact, a physical channel and psychological connection between the addresser and the addressee,
enabling both of them to stay in communication.’
Jakobson proposes that each of these six factors (addresser, message, context,
contact, code, and addressee) determines a different linguistic function. His
model demonstrates that messages and meanings cannot be isolated from
contextual factors.

1.1.3. Stuart Hall’s Model of Communication

Whilst these earlier models had been concerned with interpersonal
communication, in an essay on “Encoding/Decoding” the British sociologist
Stuart Hall proposed a model of mass communication which highlighted the
importance of active interpretation within relevant codes. In contrast to the
earlier models, Hall gave a significant role to the “decoder” as well as to the

Hall referred to various phases in the Encoding/Decoding model of

communication as moments, a term which many other commentators have
subsequently employed (frequently without explanation):
- The moment of encoding: the practices of production.
- The moment of the text: the symbolic construction, arrangement and
perhaps performance. The form and content of what is published or
- The moment of decoding: the moment of reception by the reader, hearer
or viewer.
Hall himself referred to several “linked but distinctive moments (:production,
circulation, distribution/consumption, reproduction), as part of the “circuit of
Stuart Hall stressed the role of social positioning in the interpretation of mass
media texts by different social groups. Hall suggested 3 hypothetical
interpretative codes (positions) for the reader of a text:
1.- Dominant reading: the reader fully shares the text’s code and accepts and
reproduces the preferred reading (a reading which may ot have been the
result of any conscious intention on the part of the author).
2.- Negotiated reading: the reader partly shares the text’s code and broadly
accepts the preferred reading, but sometimes resists and modifies it in a way
which reflects their own position, experiences and interests (local and
personal conditions may be seen as exceptions to the general rule).
3.- Oppositional reading: the reader, whose social situation places them in a
directly oppositional relation to the dominant code, understands the
preferred reading but does not share the text’s code and rejects this reading,
bringing to bear an alternative frame of reference (radical, feminist, etc).

2. The functions of language.

Linguistic Functions.
What do we understand by the notion “functions of language”? In the
simplest sense, the word function can be thought of as a synonym for the
word use, so that functions of language mean no more than the way people
use their language.
Since there are so many factors of communication, and so many types of
communication, linguists and communication scientists have designed
several models of communication. The prominent among them is the model
proposed by an Australian psychologist called Karl Bühler (1934). It was
further modified by Roman Jakobson, the celebrated Prague School literary
critic cum linguist and by Hymes, the anthropolinguist.
But, even before Buhler, it was Malinowski in 1923 that first come up with a
two-way distinction between the pragmatic and the magical function of
language. By pragmatic uses of language, he meant all practical functions,
including the active and the narrative functions. The magical included all
religious and ritualistic uses of language. It was soon very clear that this two-
way distinction was inadequate, in that while it accounted for the primitive
cultures and societies al right, it left out a number of other important

While Malinowski’s classification stemmed from a cultural viewpoint,

Bühler’s was essentially from the point of view of an individual Plato was the
first to discuss an instrumentalist definition of language. According to this
definition, “language primarily serves the purpose of communication.” It is a
linguistic tool. From this instrumental approach, Karl Bühler devised a model
which described the communicative functions. In his words, “language is an
organum for one person’s communication with another about things”
The three main functions of language Bühler distinguishes in his model are
representation, expression and appeal. Which function applies to which
communicative action depends on which relations of the linguistic sign are
predominant in a communicative situation.