I cannot recommend much. In many cases, general terminology and academic scholarship can assist us in our sometimes unorthodox inquiries. However, in, I found the scholarly literature particularly confused and confusing. So there have only been occasional forays over the years into books that particularly captured my interest as «classics of the times».
What does one do with definitions like: «a sign is a signal that…» and then looking up «signal», it is defined as a «sign». The term «symbol» is similarly defined as «a sign that…» or far too broadly (for practical use) as «something that represents something else». The conclusion I draw is that usage is very slippery. We will be doing our best in providing THEE-names, but it is likely to be more difficult (or controversial) than usual.
The term «THEE firmly grasps the personal and social aspects.» was largely hijacked by natural scientists and system scientists in the middle of last century. Semiologists and critical theorists spearheaded its recovery for social science; and, of course,
The term «» stayed in-house. It has been parceled out amongst various social disciplines: mainly linguistics, semiotics, critical sociology, cognitive psychology, evolutionary sociobiology and philosophy.
Linguistic studies have helpfully clarified the three big sub-divisions of language:
Semantics - about meaning
Syntactics - about correctly forming sentences
Pragmatics - about the use of language in practice.
THEE is not concerned with grammar/syntax or language per se, but with pragmatics and semantics that enable people to do things.
A field has grown up over the last 30 years that tries to unite disparate writings within disparate disciplines. Griffin's undergraduate textbookEmory A Griffin A First Look at Communication Theory, 6th Ed 2006, McGraw-Hill Inc New York. This is the edition that I used. Being an undergraduate text, it is regularly revised and goes into new editions. serves the field and provides about 30 theories, some big and some trivial, including semiotics but excluding linguistics.
Many of the presented theories turn out to be tangential toi.e. they take communication for granted rather than studying it directly. For example:
Several of the other theories which recognize and engage with psychosocial reality seem to struggle precisely because they lack the objective base that THEE frameworks can provide. More:
Griffin analyses the various research traditions and theories via polar opposite methods that he labels «objective» and «interpretive». These poles are then treated as if they reflect a continuum. It is evident that he recognizes the existence of two realities, but does not fully grasp the implications. His selection of disparate theories can be more meaningfully categorized and appreciated using TOP's 4 quadrant categorization.
The closest connection of academic theorizing with the THEE approach is probably provided by Mead's «symbolic interactionism» and the traditionA book from my university days: Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckmann: The Social Construction of Reality, 1966. It had the intriguing and distracting sub-title of "A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge". of «social constructionism/constructivism».
Natural scientists were concerned with using information to control machines, radar, telephony—and so talked about encoding and decoding, transmission mechanisms, information loss, signal/noise ratios, entropy, and such like. This approach is totally mechanistic.
As has been so common, social scientists, begging for acceptance at the doors of proper science, started appropriating some of these terms without ever realizing they were moving away from the essence of what is social and psychological. It doesn't matter—no self-respecting natural scientist will let social scientists in.
The urge for prestige and to belong does not go away. More recently, social scientists have been cozying up to neuro-scientists to understand language, creativity and more.
George Steiner has engaged with issues of language from a genuinely human and non-academic perspective: readable despite or occasionally because of his awesome erudition.
Noam Chomsky is far more than a linguist. He came to a conclusion about language, its uniqueness and its humanness, which seems to broadly accord with the approach taken here. His views about psychology also resonate with THEE assumptions. See the grammar analogy for THEE.
T.P. Waldron came out of nowhere, wrote intelligibly about the evolutionary origin of language, and then disappeared again. If you are out there TP: Great job!! Many thanks.
Your Recommendations: Post any relevant authors or books that you have enjoyed and that might be valuable for others. Provide some details about the reasons for your suggestion.
Originally posted: Oct-2010; Last updated 30-Jul-2011