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Fundamentals of communication,

Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining

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Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components
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In this chapter the readers will be provided with a closer focused, more analytic view, at the broad term
of human communication which encompasses all means, methods, techniques and strategies which
through proper use enable one person to pass information on to another or a group of persons, or enable
one mind to influence another or a group of minds.

The scheme of human communication

The scheme of 4 elements, or components, of the communication process presented earlier differs in the
case of human communication as is shown in the schematic representation below. The 'difference' relates
to the fact that in human communication, the process includes the element of 'Noise' which represents
interference that may hinder or totally disable the process of successful transmission and reception of
one or a series of messages. Additionally the difference involves the element of 'feedback' which the
message 'Receiver' in responding sends back to the 'Sender'.

The scheme of human communication

In human communication, it should be noted here, the 'Message', prior to being transmitted, is 'encoded'
by the 'Sender' in the proper verbal (sometimes and non-verbal) form and the 'Receiver' who will get
it as a visual, auditory, olfactory or tactile stimulus must be able to go through the process of properly
and successfully 'decoding' it so that it will be understood.

Feedback can serve as a simple acknowledgement of a message received or, as is the case in the socalled
'two way' communication process, 'feedback' helps in reversing the order of a message 'Sender'
and message 'Receiver' as the 'Receiver' responds to the original 'Sender' assuming the role of 'Sender'
having successfully 'decoded' and understood the 'Message'.

In practical terms communication can have a single, one way direction, where the 'Sender' emits the
'Message' which may or may not require or elicit any feedback or such feedback is not made possible in
a form referred to as a 'monologue', or it can operate on a reciprocal basis, enabling a two directional
interchange commonly referred to as a 'dialogue'.

As you read this book, it is obvious that the 4 elements of communication mentioned above are fully
present. The "Sender" in this case happens to be the author of this book, the "Receiver" is you the reader,
the "Medium" consists of the text made up of the words that are presented here and the "Message" is
synonymous with the meanings this text conveys to you.

In the case of reading a book (or for that matter any type of text printed on paper or appearing in digital
electronic form); in the case of watching a TV program or listening to a radio show, the communication
process is clearly confined to the monologue type or one way communication since, generally speaking,
the "Receiver" cannot respond to the 'Messages' conveyed by the 'Sender' through the same 'Medium'. It is
true, however, that modern means of communication provide the chance to have a so called 'interactive',
live, two-way discussion, in other words a dialogue with the TV or radio program presenters, through
the use of a land-line or mobile telephone or other modern IT media.

Defining human communication

Among humans communication arises from the need to acquire information, the desire to provide
information, as well as the need to establish social and at times emotional contacts. Communication is the
art of successful exchange of information which culminates in the establishment of mutual understanding
between two or more individuals, an individual and a group or two or more groups of individuals.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines communication as 'imparting, conveying or exchange
of ideas, knowledge etc by speech, writing or signs.' On the other hand, Webster's Dictionary defines
communication as 'the art of expressing ideas' or 'the science of transmitting information.'

In his writings Max Weber, the noted German sociologist – economist considered the communication
process as a form of social interaction related to subjective meanings oriented toward and influencing
the thinking, emotions and behaviour of the actors involved in it.

For C.W. Morris (1946) an influential writer in the second half of the 20th century human communication
is the mechanism through which human relations emerge and develop with all symbols of thought and
their transposition in space and preservation through time.

Finally, for C.R. Wright (1959) communication is considered to comprise the process of carrying meanings
between various interacting persons.

Students, production, sales and service employees, professionals, middle and upper level management
personnel as well as politicians frequently make and express value judgements relating to the
communication process and communicating persons such as 'there goes a great communicator' or 'there
is a person lacking communication skills' and even 'things could have worked out better if both parties had
interpreted and were able to understand the exchanged messages correctly'.

Language in human communication

A general consensus appears to exist on the serious problem of ascertaining the exact historical period
of the appearance and use of language as a verbal communication means, since the ability of human to
use verbal expressions has not left direct evidence as fossils. In very broad terms it could be said that the
chronological stages of verbal communication among humans begun with the development of speech
at a period estimated by various academic researchers to be somewhere between 70 and 40 millennia
B.C. Drawings of humans and animal figures and other objects on cave walls is estimated by some
researchers to have taken place between 35 and 10 millennia B.C., while the first written language texts,
in rudimentary forms, are placed between 4 and 3 millennia B.C.

Humans are considered to be the only species using mainly, but not exclusively, a language in spoken
or inscribed, i.e. in verbal or printed form, in our communication process. In the academic world it is
understood and broadly accepted that the various aspects of language content and structure, from letters
and words to grammar and syntax, are mainly the domain of research and analysis by linguists and
philologists. However, to the extent that the words we use as we communicate carry both connotations
and denotations, a brief look at human languages is relevant and can justifiably be of great interest to
communication specialists.

Vedic Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, the oldest texts of Hinduism, dating between the mid 4th to
the mid 3rd millennium B.C. is considered by some scholars to be the oldest known human language.
Among academics it is usually accepted that Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Tamazight, Hebrew and Tamil are
the oldest major languages still being used and spoken today. It is estimated that in our times there may
be up to 6,000 languages spoken in the world but almost 90% of them are used by less than 100,000
persons. According to UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
the most widely spoken languages by the number of native speakers and by persons that have acquired
them as a second language are, in a decreasing order, Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic,
Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French.

Words in a language

Words are the smallest elements in every language that can be expressed and stand on their own in
contrast to morphemes which constitute the smallest unit in the grammar of each language but cannot
stand on their own. Words in their written form are small or larger syntheses of letters (consonants,
vowels, syllables, diphthongs and morphemes) and of phonemes in their spoken, verbal utterance. Words
can be uttered in isolation or may constitute the building blocks of phrases and sentences in each and
every language. Words, indisputably, do carry in each language specific and agreed upon meanings both
for those uttering them and those receiving them.

There appear to be words used in academic circles and popular writings as examples of a verbal or
written form carrying what appear to be universal implications such as the word "mother". This word,
universally, refers to a woman who has given birth to, or plays the role of a surrogate to one or more
children she has adopted. The word is not exhausted by this description as it may give rise to a number
of emotion-laden perceptions such as "a loving and caring mother" or "an authoritarian and cold mother"
and even "a single mother separated by her husband by divorce, abandonment or death and left alone
to care for her children".

Signs and Symbols

Progressing beyond spoken and written words even a brief discussion of signs and symbols behoves
us to start by placing the appropriate emphasis on their role and the importance they dramatize in the
human communication process.

Ohler, (1987) has noted that:

'…A sign is something that stands for something else and is understood by someone or has meaning
for someone. This common sense definition of the sign has the appearance of being self evident at first
but on further reflection ceases to look so simple.' (p. 5)

In the same work, Ohler goes on to present the three aspects or elements of the sign, which stand in
a special relationship to each other constituting what can logically be perceived as a three place, or a
triadic relationship, namely: (1) the sign itself, (2) the sign in relation to its objects and (3) the sign in
relations to its interpretant. Since a sign is anything that stands for something else it means that a sign
is a representation of an object and implies a connection between itself and its object. Signs are used
by humans to represent something from an idea or an experience, to a feeling or an object. A natural
sign bears a causal relation to its object so that, by common consensus, a thunder is accepted to be the
sign of storm.

A conventional sign signifies by consensus a specific agreement, as is the case in written forms of a
language, where the semi-colon signifies a break stronger than a coma but not as strong as the period
that signifies the end of a sentence. In the use of sign language a motion or gesture by which a thought
is expressed or a command or wish is made known have conventional meanings and are used in place
of words or to represent a complex notion. A sign is understood to have literal meaning, i.e. its meaning
is simple and straightforward and emanates, as a matter of conventional agreement, among people who
use that particular sign.

A symbol is in clear contrast to a sign since it stands for another thing, an example being a flag which
stands as the symbol of a nation. A symbol may represent an idea, or a process or a physical entity. The
purpose of using symbols is to communicate meaning. In traffic signs an inverted triangle drawn on the
pavement or shown on a road sign is a symbol for 'giving way' while a red octagon is used to indicate to
the drivers their obligation to 'STOP'. In our formal and informal communications personal names such
as John or Jane stand to represent individuals, while a red rose presented from one person to another
symbolizes affection and perhaps love.

Symbols, contrary to signs, have complex meanings and unlike signs they do not posses only 'literal'
meanings, but also additional meaning(s) beyond the literal. As symbols may have more than one meaning
it turns out that some of the most significant universally known symbols do convey an indefinite range
of meanings. It so happens that sometimes the literal meaning of a symbol is absurd, the ensuing result
being that the symbolic meaning over-rides and cancels out the literal meaning.

Eco (1986) has noted that etymologically the word symbol 'σύμβολο' meaning a token, derives its origin
from the Greek verb 'συμβάλλω' which is a synthesis of 'συμ' meaning 'together' and 'βάλλω' meaning
to throw, to cast, such as the stroke of a missile.

The origin of the word symbol has its own interesting history. A symbol was used as a point of recognition
and referred to an object that had been divided into two or more parts by its original holder and passed
on to two or more persons. When, at some later future point, the persons holding each the one-half or
fragment of the original object met, it sufficed for them to put the two or more pieces together restructuring
the original form of the object, and thus enabling them to identify their commonality or bond.

Taking our discussion to another realm we will note that it is not easy to ascertain the role drawings on
wall caves played in the process of human communication. The use of signs, in the form of paintings in
caves dates considerably earlier than the period written documents on clay, marble or papyri were used.
In the mid 1990s the accidental discovery by Jan Marie Chauvet, a security guard at a French regional
archaeological department, shifted the centre of prehistoric art form from the southwest of France to the
southeast area of the country. The relevant radiocarbon testing indicated that the images may have been
created some 30–35,000 years BC although a serious debate of 'believers and doubters' has emerged and
goes on since the announcement of the discovery.

At this point it should prove to be useful to bring to the attention of the reader the fact that during
the first three centuries after the death of Christ the cross had become the symbol of Christianity. The
persecutions of Christians by the Roman authorities, however, lead them for security reasons, to avoid
using the symbol of the cross in searching for other Christian brethren. Christians during those times
used two curved intersecting lines symbolizing a fish as a means of covertly announcing their identity
and seeking their brethren. Not only was this symbol easy to draw, but it also had mystical overtones
in that it derived from an acronym from the letters of the Greek word for fish 'ΙΧΘΥΣ' (Ιησούς Χριστός
Υιός Θεού Σωτήρ) which translates in English as 'Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.'

Going beyond the reasons of protecting their identity as Christians, some historians and theologians have
suggested that the theme of the fish was particularly suited to a religion that relied on recruitment, and
the metaphor of the apostles as real life fishermen converted to 'fishers of men,' was most appropriate.
Initially used, as noted above, as a secret sign during the period when Christians were persecuted by the
Roman authorities, the fish symbolized the mission of the group it represented and did so very simply
and most effectively. The fish sign has been found scrawled on public building walls, caves and catacombs,
on trees and any place where Christians wished to leave their mark to communicate their increasing
numbers and strength to their brethren in countries around the Mediterranean Basin.

Semiotics and Semiology

In the present context of discussing human communication, a brief reference should be made to Semiotics,
the study of signs, introduced by Charles Sanders Peirce an American philosopher and to the work of
Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, who gave foundation to what he termed as Semiology. The two
men, working independently and not aware of each other's work, established the fundamental principles
that modern semioticians or semiologists (for practical purposes the terms are in essence interchangeable)
have developed into the contemporary study of semiotics. It should be noted that both terms have their
etymological origin in the Greek word 'semeîon', which is, in most instances, rendered in English as 'sign'.

Ohler (1987) has clearly stated that since Greek antiquity the term Semiotics has been used for the theory
of signs and, simultaneously, the majority of terms used today in semiotic discourse can be traced back
to Greek origins or to Latin translations of Greek expressions.

The origins of the theory of signs reach back as far as the sixth century B.C. and semiotic investigations can
be found in Presocratics, the Sophists and Plato: discussions of the nature of language, of communication
in general, of the relation of sign to signified, of the roles of speaker and listener, of the combinability
and non-combinability of words, of the grounds for the possibility of false sentences and so on. These
investigations were continued by Aristotle, who developed within the framework of his efforts to define,
analyze and discuss logic and rhetoric what might be described as the first semiotic system including
the concept of symbol.

Barthes (1957), following the translation in the English language of his book 'Mythologies' in the second
half of the 20th century, introduced semiotics as a major approach to cultural studies. Current representative
writers in semiotics and semiology include, among others, the well known Italian philosopher and writer
Umberto Eco and the French (Bulgarian born) philosopher and writer Julia Kristeva.

The role of context and effect in communication

Lasswell (1948) has left a legacy with his '5 w' maxim, 'who says what, in what way to whom and with
what effect' while Schramm (1953) saw the likelihood of a 'sender' gaining the attention of a 'receiver' as
a function of expenditure of effort relating to reward and punishment. This process, in practical terms,
means that if a 'message' is easy to understand and may imply some sort of reward for the 'receiver' then
it is more likely to gain attention.

At this point it should be emphasized that the communication process is not fully covered and exhausted
by the scheme of the four component-elements, (Sender, Receiver, Medium, Message) and the two
concepts of 'noise' and 'feedback' added to them as presented earlier. A significant concept which must be
additionally included in this discussion is that of the 'context' which is to be understood as the physical,
socio-cultural and psychological environment, in which the communication process is taking place. The
concept of 'context' is broad enough to also include the participating individuals' personalities and the
relationships existing between 'Sender' and 'Receiver' in their private, personal lives or in their respective
or mutually shared work environment.

Finally the concept of 'effect' in the communication process should be added to the scheme of the four
basic elements-components (Sender, Receiver, Medium, Message) and the added 'noise', 'feedback' and
'context' components. The concept of 'effect' helps to bring to a fruitful integration the communication
paradigm as it includes both immediately visible results as well as others which are not immediately visible
but materialize and emerge at a later time as related by-products of a successful communication process.

Barriers to communication

As noted earlier, ever present in the schematic representation of the 4 element-components system of the
communication process is the concept of 'noise' which refers to and includes all forms of interference
that can hinder or fully obliterate the successful transmission and reception of each and every message.
Noise may take a variety of forms including, but not limited to, physical distractions, channel or medium
inadequacies and faults, language shortcomings in linguistic and expressive skills of the 'Sender' and
of the 'Receiver', as well as the existing, at that particular moment, state of mind and psychological
dispositions of the actors involved in the process.

Channel noise, that is physical interference such as a radio or TV set playing loudly in a room adjacent to
yours, has been the centre of interest in the work of Bernstein (1986) who has emphasized the distracting
role 'noise' plays in communications and has referred to and presented a variety of physical distractions.
In an anecdotal way Bernstein (1986, p. 29) refers to a television advertisement for a disinfectant which
showed a toddler playing on the kitchen floor where the tiles on which germs existed were numbered.
TV viewers, notes Bernstein in good humour, called to find out where they could buy the numbered
kitchen floor bricks and not the advertised disinfectant.

For those of the readers ('Receivers') of the present book who are college or university students a usual
type of 'noise' may relate to a roommate who has his radio, stereo set, TV or other music reproducing
device playing loudly while you are trying to read and understand a complex management theory text
and decode its 'messages'. Bernstein has listed a variety of 'noise' examples among which an interesting
one relates to language shortcomings, or lack of linguistic skills, as is obviously the case in the misreading
of a sign in a parking lot that has printed on it the message 'Fine for parking'. Such a message on a sign
may be interpreted by a foreigner visiting an English speaking country as it is 'Fine or Ok to park here'
while natives know that it means you will be 'fined' for parking here

The 1977 Tenerife Airport disaster involving a Pan American Airways Boeing 747 aircraft and a KLM
Royal Dutch Airlines 747 aircraft was attributed, although there were other factors involved, to a
misunderstanding of the messages exchanged over radio equipment between the captain of one aircraft
and the Air Traffic Controller of the local Airport. In that tragic and unprecedented in magnitude accident
583 passengers and crew members lost their lives in what has come to be the worst aviation accident
taking place not on the air but on land at the Spanish airport grounds.

Examples of channel or medium inadequacies and faults are static noises interfering in the phone
conversation among 'sender' and 'receiver' using a land line, or poor strength or low quality signals on
mobile phones. An interesting type of 'noise' and its various aspects which is the subject of study for
Psychologists and other social or behavioural scientists refers to the type of emotional relationship that
may already exist between 'Sender' and 'Receiver'. This type of Psychological 'noise' must take into account
each person's emotional and stress or anxiety state at the moment 'Messages' are send and received and,
in a macro-psychological view, it must also consider the structures of personalities involved, i.e. the
psychological types characterizing both the 'Sender' and the 'Receiver'.

It has been briefly stated so far, but it is imperative to point out and emphasize the fact that communication
is indeed an intricate and complex process which, when successfully integrated, achieves and helps fulfil
one or more of the aimed results. Reference has been made to the fact that communication takes place
within a specific physical, social or cultural milieu and serves specific needs or satisfies desired goals.
As communication exchange materializes, it is easy to discern the attempts persons involved in it make
to understand and assess the perceptions, value systems, ideological and political beliefs, philosophies
of life and personalities of one another.

Three specific barriers to effective communication of a 'Message' have been outlined by Kotler (1984,
p. 605), namely, 'selective attention' signifying the fact that 'Receivers' do not pay attention to all messages
attempting to reach them; 'selective distortion' which refers to a common practice of 'Receivers' twisting
a message and not hearing what it says or conveys but what they would like to hear, and 'selective recall'
meaning that in fact 'Receivers' retain only fractions of the multitude of the various messages they receive.
Kotler has presented his perception of what he has termed as 'response hierarchy' differentiating three
different responses to be elicited from the person or the public a message is addressed to. In his scheme
the 'cognitive' type refers to the case of trying to put something in the receiver's mind; the 'affective' type
refers to the attempt of changing the receiver's attitude while, finally, the 'behavioural' type describes the
case of getting the respondent to do something.

A variety of communication barriers are discussed by Harrison (2000) which, among other, include
'fields of experience' where the term signifies the fact that if 'Sender' and 'Receiver' do not have common
fields of experience unless the 'Sender' takes the needed care and time to encode the 'Message' in ways
that will enable the 'Receiver' to effectively decode and understand it this lack of common field of
experience will operate as a barrier in their communication process. 'Value judgements' usually operate
as barriers to effective communication in cases where the 'Receiver' is not convinced that the 'Sender' is
a respectable source or when the medium through which the message is conveyed is not characterized
by adequate credibility. 'Status differences' between 'Sender' and 'Receiver' who may belong to different
socio-economic classes or to different ranks in the hierarchy of organizational charts of private and
public enterprises and organizations may negatively affect the communication processes between them.
'Time constraints' may act as barriers to effective communication if our activities are not properly
planned and so is the 'overload' coming as a result of the availability of impressive ICT (Information and
Communication Technology) media which end up creating vast amounts of messages (notable among
them is the volume of e-mails between company or organization personnel) for the same 'Receivers'


  1. Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components
  2. Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining
  3. Body Language: darwins contribution, intrigue of body language
  4. Mass Media & social media: stone inscription, printing process
  5. The Role of attitudes in human communication: defining attitudes
  6. The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse
  7. Publics, Public Opinion and its moulders: historical evolution, term
  8. Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  9. Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication
  10. Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist
  11. Leaders and Leadership: pantheon of leaders, persons, injustice
  12. Leadership, Power, Authority & Charisma: events, political, financial
  13. Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:
  14. Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or
  15. Instead of an epilogue: Women leaders remain under a glass ceiling:
  16. References: Bibliography
  17. The Author: Dr Georgios P. Piperopoulos, sociology, psychology