Theory of Communication

Ethnography of Speaking / Communication (D. Hymes 1962)

One of the first people to call for ethnography of speaking which is Ethnography of Communication which is a kind of subdicispline derived from anthropology and linguistics.

Eth is a kind of research method and it particularly comes from the field of anthropology, that is why it is one of its sub-disciplines and communication refers to the linguistics. The term ethnography refers to the systematic study we particularly mean a research method, systematic study of cultures and people.

When we say ethnography of communication is a kind of subdisicipline which is considered within the systematic study of the construction and negotiation of social meanings.

Ethnographers study the communicative situation, not the individuals or communities. They observe the communicative situations and observe their acts in a long period of time as if they become a member of that speech community. They usually spend a very long time in order to be sure and not make false assumptions.

Hymes proposed 6 units of communication,

  1. Speech Community: In order to call a group, community they have to share something common which are binding them together. In order to call them a speech community, there must be a shared language, and we use this term n a more comprehensive way, not necessarily referring to the linguistic code or national language. We can give examples of lectures as a speech community. Also, we need some shared rules of speech such as rules in a class, in an office meeting. We know these rules by some speech cultures such as school culture. When we say shared rules of communication, we speak rules of appropriacy in a contextual situation. As adults we know the appropriate rules of communication and use them in certain contexts and not use them in other ones. Even Twitter is a speech community and these communities are not fixed, they are dynamic and continuously changing.
  2. Communicative Situation: As the particular context in which communication takes place by the members of this speech community. When those members start communication in particular context, it is called the communicative situation. Speakers of particular speech communicaties have to how to take part in particular communicative situation. People may be members of the different speech communities at the same time. Is the particular context in which communication occurs. Such examples are, A court, a vaaz in a mosque, church services etc. Communicative situations have a specific patterns and parts such as opening sequence, middle sequence and end sequence.
  3. Communicative Event: Most of the time ELF lessons start with opening routines such as greeting, warming-up and then usually it is followed by a teacher directed lesson like teacher taking the floor and addressing the whole class together and this part is usually followed by an activity; individual work, pair work or group work, these are 3 types of activities and the last part is the closing routine such saying goodbye and giving homework. Each of these are a communicative events.
  4. Communicative Act: In every communicative event, every single utternarnces relailzes every communicative function is a communicative act. Here the important thing is, that uttenracnce realises one single communicative function. Such as when we say “Hello, how are you” in a class environment this is a communicative event but the sentences are are communicative act and the important thing here is functions of these sentences. Another example from daily life “May I have a coffee” is a communicative act and its function is requesting a coffee.
  5. Communicative Style: Refers to the way speakers speak such as do you speak politely etc.
  6. Ways of Speaking / Patterning: refers to the patterns of speaking in particularly communicative event.

For Hymes, In order to communicatively be competent in a speech community we have to know all the units above. Unlike Chomsky’s competence which is about knowledge, Hymes theory is more interested in ability to use the language, performance. Different linguistic utterances gain different meanings in contexts and when we say contexts we mean we refer to communicative events and situation, for this purpose, Hymes talks about context of communication defining communicative event,

Setting & Scene: We refer to the time, space and environment of the communication.
Participant: Who is involved in communication.
Ends: Here refers to purpose of communication together with the outcome of the communication.
Act Sequence: Refers to the communicative act. Sequences of act makes up the communicative act.
Key: Refers to the overall tone, manner of the communication. It’s like is it a serious tone, is it a mocking tone, what sort of tone.
Instrumentalities: We refer to forms of communication such as e-mailing, phone calling, casual speaking
Norms: Defines what is socially acceptable.
Genre: Type of speech or type of text. Is it narration, is it a everyday casual conversation, so what Is the genre.

In order to take part in a communicative event in a communicatively competent way, we consider all the factors above.

If you need to design any kind of lesson, activity, task when you consider a context you need to consider all the units above.

Speech Act Theory

  1. Locutionary: The literal meaning of an utterance.
  2. Illocutionary: When a word gains its meaning in a context, it is this.
  3. Perlocutionary: Result or the effect of the utterance

Example of Locutionary with “Sorry about that”

S: In a school in a hallway.
Participants: 2 book reading students
Ends: Apoligyziing for colliding to each other.
Key: In a worried tone.
Instrumentalieites: Formal speaking
Norms: casual school norms
Genre: dialogue

Example of IlLocutionary with “Sorry about that”

S: In a dark hallway
Participants: 2 people, one of them is a mafia boss and the other is a debt owner.
Ends: threatening
Key: mocking and sarcastic tone
Instrumentalities: Informal speaking
Norms: no norms
Genre: dialogue

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