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Communication: Definitions and Concepts

Paul Cobley


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The Latin root of “communication” – communicare – means “to share” or “to be in relation with.” Through Indo-European etymological roots, it further relates to the words “common,” “commune,” and “community,” suggesting an act of “bringing together” (→  Communication: History of the Idea ). The notion of communication has been present and debated in the west from pre-Socratic times. The Hippocratic Corpus, for example, is a list of symptoms and diseases; it discusses ways of “bringing together” the signs of a disease or ailment with the disease itself for the purposes of diagnosis and prognosis. In the west, classic works of Greek philosophy set much of the agenda for understanding communication ( Peters 1999 , 36–50). Emerging from a society in the transition from oral to literate modes, these works figured communication as a process bringing together humans to consider a shared reality through the word. Like many societies, early Greece was characterized by orality: communication by means of the voice, without the technology of writing. Oral communication, because it could not store information in the same ways and amounts as writing, evolved mnemonic, often poetic, devices to pass on traditions and cultural practices. Narrative, for example, developed as a form of communication in which facts were figured as stories of human action to be retold in relatively small public gatherings ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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