Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Theories of Communication: Summary and Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Communications
Wordcount: 3269 words Published: 7th Aug 2018

Reference this




No matter what language we speak, when we hear a sentence we try to get the logical meaning and interpretation (inference). We also try to figure out the exact truth of what the other person or people are saying because it is also believed that there is more to conversation then just the word to word facts.

There is a consistent way our conversation should work and we use our knowledge of those rules to go beyond what is actually said and figure out what they actually mean.

Therefore, in analyzing this conversation we are going to use those principles such as the cooperative principle and this also is sub-divided or break down into four main maxims which are, the maxim of quality, the maxim of manner, the maxim of relevance and the maxim of quantity Paul Grice (1960). These principles act as guides to our conversations at all times. Most people use it without really knowing that they are using it. Therefore in analyzing this conversation, theories from experts like Paul Grice, Hymes and Wilson (see Bill Clark) are used to explain. In same vein this brief is a communication process via a sign post and it is governed by the maxim of truthfulness and the widespread of the use of pragmatics language to illustrate various processes that leads to relevance


The speaking Grid is a tool use in the act of interpreting the communication processes; it was developed by Hymes with the acronym S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G which stands for setting and scene, participant, end, act of sequence, key, instrumentalities, norm and genre. (Hymes, 1974 p55-62)

In that, the speaking grid is used to analyze the sign post above.


This sign post was spotted on the working site of a car company (mechanical shop) here in the UK Luton. It is believed that the site is marked private and only workers or customers of the said establishment are allowed to park their cars at the place with an order of sanction that follows for none customers

Again different cultures have different demands and expectations from individual behaviors in that people coming from a culture were sign post are not used will surely not acknowledge the sign post. Therefore, it all boils down to the psychological state of mind of the individual.


The participant here are the customers and none customers. It is so because the sign post explicitly direct the information to those two set of audience


The sign post ends with the instruction which is believed to be a sanction for none customers(Toad) although the word is misspell(Towed) but the message is obviously clear to the none customers of the possible action that will be taken against him or her.


The sign post start with the word “Private” which could meaning a lot of things to different people. But could be understood through the act of inference to meaning private for the purpose of been so for its customers only.


This usually refers to the tone of the conversation between peoples but in the post the major tone there is that of the sanction which state that all other will be toad (towed)


The post was written in two broad forms which could explain perfectly the intention of the communicator. The first language used was a causal language then followed by the tone of sanction for by passers.


There are social and legal rule guiding people’s actions and behavior in the every society. In that the post explicitly indicate that it is for private and at such others will be towed (toad) that is, others not authorize to park there.


This is an artistic work in which scene of everyday life form the subject matter. Therefore, it is most related to linguistic and pragmatic features.


Linguistically the words written on the sign post might look ambiguous and incorrect because the sign private customer parking only ignoring the misspell word of toad could mean a lot of things to different people because there are so many private life and could also mean private car park which could mean not for public use. Therefore, linguistically what the sign post might be meaning is that customer parking only which can be interpreted that customers are not allowed to do any other thing except parking and this could meaning parking themselves and not cars

But it is our knowledge of the word that tells us the actual meaning and by doing so we infer into the contextual meaning by way of reasoning in other to deduce the actual meaning of private car parking

Secondly, the word “ALL OTHERS WILL BE TOAD” which could mean that all other that are not customers could be towed or sometime else could happen to their car.

Therefore, that leads to our pragmatic understanding of words as they appear to us.


Pragmatically the sign clearly illustrates the under determinacy of the message by the linguistic meaning of the communicative act and people are able to infer meaning to the sign assuming that the word “ALL OTHERS” could be meaning cars and nothing something else

The main idea of pragmatic theory is to analyze issues that affect the interpretation of utterances relating to the knowledge behind the linguistic meaning of the sentence. In that, this analysis shows that human communication is more than just coding and decoding of words and this could be seen from the illustration from of the word “ALL OTHERS WILL BE TOAD”. It is believed that from the reasoning we are able to infer meaning into the word and extracting the exact meaning the sentence is trying to portray or give.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Therefore, in trying to encode as much as possible into linguistic message we rather tend to encode little as necessary for the people who sees the text or sign to figure out the exact message even though it is not in the language. The sign post starts with the word “Private” and went on to say “customer parking only and all others will be toad” in that the sign post could be said not to be informative enough for people that might intend parking their cars there will not do so.

Although, the sign post may have want to explain the post in this form” Private Customer Car Parking Only, All Other Cars Will Be Towed” in that there seems to be a gap between the decontextualized meaning of the sign post and the ideas expressed by the words. Yule (1996:22) Going by that, it is only by inference (reasoning) that people that are non customer could infer into what the sign post actually mean and act accordingly to avoid sanctions.

Finally the “TOAD” illustrate the point of human communication that the other creature cannot do; for instance towing and toad despite the misspell one is able to code the actual meaning by inferring into the sign post (language) and that is why Hacket(2000) believes strongly on ability of human communication that really distinguishes him from other primate


From the post it is assume that the word “private customer parking only” could be said to send a straight message to non customers and at such non customers should referring from parking their cars there.

The direct communication in the post is actually what the other party really looks at and forgetting the other offensive part that somehow is communicated indirectly. The extraction of the first part meaning is enough for none customers to obey.


Indirect communication is said to occur when the speaker deviates from the actual meaning or spelling of a particular word or expression. For instance, the post makes some illustrations that clearly show the intention of the communicator that he is trying to conceal things and that could be seen in the spelling of the word Toad instead of Towed and there by miss leading the reader.

Although, some may argue that the whole text or sign post is communicated indirectly starting from the very beginning with the word “Private” to the end which is Toad because the word Customer Parking only do not really communicate directly whether customers are allowed to park their cars there in that it could still mean that the only thing allowed to do there is for customers to park their self in one place without doing anything else.

Therefore, it is the use of inference that the true meaning of what the sign post is trying to communicate could really be attained and achieved.


Different theories are used in explaining the communication process and some of them include the following

  1. The accommodation theory
  2. The relevance theory
  3. The cooperative theory (Grice maxims)


The accommodation theory is essentially a way in which individuals communicates in social groups with language terms or codes peculiar to them and this sometimes could be as a result of cultural variation and sometimes in other for you to communicate effectively you need to be approved of by that group


The relevant theory stipulates that there are some information that are worth having while some are not and it is our cognition that is directed toward the processing of the information

For instance, the work PRIVATE CUSTOMER PARKING ONLY could mean different things to different people but being that the situation at which the information is posted people tend to get the right meaning and ignoring the other aspect that could not mean anything to them

Communication can be defined as the verbal exchange of thoughts and ideas. In that respect, the communication we will be analyzing falls into that category because thoughts and idea were in exchange either explicitly or not.

One of the major characteristics of communication is the use of inference(reasoning) and encoding and decoding to decipher what the speaker or writer intentions are or what he intended to say or what he is saying. Sometimes communication takes the form of monopoly in the sense that the communicator might not want the information to be explicit to the reader or receiver thereby making it looks one sided. But there are different reasons why communication can be monopolize for instance the intention of the communicator might be different with what the receiver already know or want and this could be seen in the sign post illustration above which states “all others will be toad”

Going by that, inferential reasoning in communication can be explained using the Grice maxim of communication which is the cooperative principle (1975) to illustrate how communication is perceived


The maxim of quality is always regarded as one of the fundamental of communications principles, according to Grice because it is also believed that when we communicate we expect each other to say things that we believed to be true and relevant to the discussion (Grice 1989:27)

Therefore, the illustration below clearly shows that the communicative style deviate from what could be seen as a cooperative act due to the fact that the post want the reader to infer and deduce into its meaning in other to know exactly what it meant by Toad

  1. Customer parking only
  2. All others will be toad

The maxim of quality says that, in communication the intention of the communicator should be plain and genuine and there should be no form of ambiguity so as to confuse the other party.

Therefore the excerpt above in the statement

Remember that the maxim of quality says

  1. Do not say that for which you believe to be false( truthfulness)
  2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence

In that maxim of quality is with the speaker over contribution as to what he wants to explain either directly or indirectly which to some extent is regarded as the truthfulness in the act of communication (Grice 1967 p27)

The maxim of quality explains things in their real sense and did not try to conceal information so as to deceive the listener. Although communication involve the use of some forms of inference (reasoning) to encode and decode meaning out of conversation, but the maxim of quality is very explicitly when it comes to communication.(Grice 1989 p 371) even thou it was the speaker alone that is mostly concerned.


The maxim of quantity as the name is all about giving information with extra ways of adding to the information.

For instance, PRIVATE CUSTOMER PARKING ONLY, that piece of information is enough to make the reader understand and get meaning out of the message but rather it went further to add ALL OTHERS WILL BE TOAD.


This is a situation where the speaker makes precise and concise decision without the listener. According to the post above, there seems to be a contradiction deviating from the maxim of manner by adding other talks that are not relevant to the discussion or topic in question.


This maxim stipulates that a partner contribution to the process of communication should be appropriate to the information received. The post begins its statement with the word Private and it clearly shows that it is not open to any other form of relationship except to its customers only

Therefore, “ALL OTHER WILL BE TOAD” contradicts the earlier information of customer parking only with a misspell of the word Towering to Toad. Also the word Toad could be argued according to Grice not to be relevant to the post of customers parking only.


The Grice maxim of truthfulness was part of what might be called an inferential model of human communication, although, relevance is used in technical sense which is not meant to capture any of the ordinary sense of word.

Relevance is the property of input to truth in other words; information’s are more relevant when they lead to truth. Although from the relevance perspective it those not really matter if the speaker speaks the truth or not because what is of most concern to relevance is the cognition process. The relevance is more concern about the integration to general knowledge of cognition effect rather than what is actually said or written in the post like the one above with the misspell of Towed as Toad. Dejura is a key element in relevance

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Looking closely to how we communicate it shows that most often we communicate things that are not true, for instance the sign post trying to communicate the word All Others Will Be Towed is not true because if a police car is parked in that area certainly nothing will be done to that car. But in Grice’s term this is a violation of the maxim of quality but to the relevance theory it is not a violation because people don’t tend to communicate things that are true but rather communicate things that are relevant. According to the definition of relevance it is only those positive improvement to the believe system are worth having. Therefore, in this regard the relevance theory seems to be superior over the Grice’s theory


An utterance has two immediate effects and this indicate that the speaker has something to communicate and it determine an order of accessibility in which the interpretability will occur to the hearer.

There is always that assumption that we are entitled to presume that the communicator is aiming to make their contribution one that is real and true and one for which he or she has an adequate evidence about




A standard semantic analysis of the second part of the sign post indicates the following that the parking space provided is for customer only and all others will be charged accordingly. It is obvious that the sign post means something more than what it explains and in that it is expected that the reader uses some inference (reasoning) to decipher the exact meaning of the speaker.

Therefore, the sign post with the inscription PRIVATE CUSTOMER PARKING ONLY is immediately flowered by the supporting sign that “ALL OTHERS WILL BE TOAD” in other words it is very explicit that what the sign post require is for only customers to parking at their own risk and may probable be charged for parking. Walliam and Spencer (1798).

This is simply where inferential thinking takes place and could not be argued that this follows the laws of relevance because the law of relevance stipulates that the amount of information recovered should be equal to the one expected or given out.

Again, it entails decoding and encoding which is also an important aspect of inference


Therefore, this piece of work achieved in the demonstration of analyzing and describes the intent of communication process from the point of view of relevance theory, cooperative theory and pragmatic and linguistic features of communication. In other word the theories explains how human uses cognition and how human infer into the meaning of various communication process.

Therefore, the theories explain the whole sign post beginning with the speaking Grid, linguistic and pragmatic feature of language communication, brief explanation of the accommodation theory, the cooperative principles of communication with explanations on the Grice maxims, direct and indirect communication and the relevance theory


Blackemore, D. (1987) sematic contrains on relevance. Blackwell, oxford

Blackemore, D. (1992) understanding utterances. Blackwell, oxford

Davis, S (ed.)(1991) pragmantics: a reader. Oup, oxford

Clark, B. (1993). Relevance and “pseudo-imperatives”. Linguistics and philosophy, 16(1), 79-121.

Clark, B. (1993). Relevance and “pseudo-imperatives”. Linguistics and philosophy, 16(1), 79-121.

Grice, H. P. (1981). Presupposition and conversational implicature. Radical pragmatics, 183-198

Grice, H. P. (2013). 4. logic and conversation. The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy, 47.

Hymes, D.H. (1974). Ways of speaking. In R. Bauman & J. Sherzer (Eds.),Explorations in the ethnography of speaking(pp. 433-452). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hymes, D.H. (Ed.). (1974). Studies in the history of linguistics: Traditions and paradigms. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Lewis, D. (1979). Scorekeeping in a language game. Journal of philosophical logic, 8(1), 339-359

Lewis, D. (1973). Causation. The journal of philosophy, 556-567.

Sperber, D and Wilson, D (1986). Relevance: communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell and Cambridge: Harvard University press.

Žegarac, V., & Clark, B. (1999). Phatic interpretations and phatic communication. Journal of Linguistics, 35(02), 321-346.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: