Saturday, 22 October 2011

Facilitators & Barriers of Communication

Selecting appropriate mediums, channels and technologies
This takes place at the level of conceptualization.
When a sender decides to encode a message, he or she must take two main things into consideration during this stage – the context and the audience (receiver). These factors influence both choice of medium and choice of channel. The key word here is appropriateness. Choice of medium and channel are directly influenced by the purpose of the message and the intended audience. Ask yourself the following questions when determining levels of appropriateness:

i. Who is my receiver?
ii. How best can my message be conveyed?
iii. Where is the communication act taking place?
iv. What is the situation surrounding the communication act?
v. Is my audience one person or several?
vi. What medium should I use, oral or written?
vii. Should I use technology? If so, which technology would most appropriate?

 Scenario 1
Read the scenario below and answer the questions that follow.
Greg is ill and has to be away from school for two weeks. His mother encodes a letter to the school principal and sends it out in the mail.

In the above situation,
1. How else could Greg’s mother have gotten the message to the Principal?
2. Why do you think she chose to write a letter?

Answer: The telephone or email could have been used. She chose the letter because a letter is a more formal medium of communication and can serve as a permanent record.

Facilitators &; Barriers to Communication
Noise is anything that interrupts or blocks the flow of information. Whenever the understanding of a message is affected, the obstruction is considered a barrier to communication.
Some common barriers to communication are:
i. A language barrier
ii. A channel that is inaccessible to the receiver
iii. The message is ineffectively encoded or the meaning is ambiguous
iv. The medium is inappropriate to the message

Some common facilitators to communication are:
i. Choosing a familiar language
ii. Using an accessible channel
iii. Ensuring that the medium is appropriate to the message
iv. Using audio/visual aids to enhance the encoding of the message

The Communication Process & The Elements of Communication

Systematic=Step by Step=Process

Communication as a Process
Human communication is interpersonal, it is purposive and it is a process.
Question: What do we mean by process?
Answer: By process we mean that steps have to be taken and in a set/particular order to achieve a desired result/goal. These are the important elements of the communication process:

The sender also known as the encoder decides on the message to be sent, the best/most effective way that it can be sent. All of this is done bearing the receiver in mind. In a word, it is his/her job to conceptualize.
The sender may want to ask him/herself questions like: What words will I use? Do I need signs or pictures?

The medium is the immediate form which a message takes. For example, a message may be communicated in the form of a letter, in the form of an email or face to face in the form of a speech.

The channel is that which is responsible for the delivery of the chosen message form. For example post office, internet, radio.

The receiver or the decoder is responsible for extracting/decoding meaning from the message. The receiver is also responsible for providing feedback to the sender. In a word, it is his/her job to INTERPRET.

This is important as it determines whether or not the decoder grasped the intended meaning and whether communication was successful.

Communication does not take place in a vacuum. The context of any communication act is the environment surrounding it. This includes, among other things, place, time, event, and attitudes of sender and receiver.

7. NOISE (also called interference)
This is any factor that inhibits the conveyance of a message. That is, anything that gets in the way of the message being accurately received, interpreted and responded to. Noise may be internal or external. A student worrying about an incomplete assignment may not be attentive in class (internal noise) or the sounds of heavy rain on a galvanized roof may inhibit the reading of a storybook to second graders (external noise).
The communication process is dynamic, continuous, irreversible, and contextual. It is not possible to participate in any element of the process without acknowledging the existence and functioning of the other elements.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Language as A Subset of Communication: The Case of Wild Children

In a previous post, Introduction to Communication Studies, the point was made that humans are not the only beings with a system of Communication and also that 'Language' is the name given to the human system of Communication. Therefore, though babies are born with the ability to communicate, they must be placed in an environment where they are able to acquire language inputs from older humans, otherwise they will not acquire Language. Below is a you tube clip on feral (wild) children, which emphasizes this point.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Linguistic Features of Jamaican Creole (Patois)

Jamaican Creole is considered a language like any other for two basic reasons:
 1. It possesses the characteristic features of a language AND 2. It performs the functions of a language.      
Below is a brief outline of some of these linguistic features:
PHONOLOGY: the sound system of a language. Patois has a sound system independent of English.
  • Jamaican Creole does not use the 'th' sound but substitutes with two other sounds: the 't' sounds as in 'tik' for the English 'thick' and the 'd' sounds as in 'dem' for the English 'them'.
  • Jamaican Creole does not pronounce the 'h' sound at the beginning of English words. Therefore English 'hour' becomes 'our'. Similarly there is the tendency to hyper-correct and pronounce the 'h' sound at the beginning of words that do not require it, therefore English 'egg' becomes 'hegg' and 'exam' becomes 'hexam' and so on.
LEXICON: the vocabulary of a language. Although the lexical items of Patois are English based, many are used in non-English ways.
  • Some Patois words that appear to be similar to English words do not carry the same meaning, e.g. 'Ignorant' in Patois means easily angered, very upset and not lacking knowledge (which is the English definition). Another example is 'Belly' that in patois can refer to pregnancy.
  • Some English words are compounded to create nouns not present in English for example 'Foot bottom' for the sole of the feet and 'Eye water' for tears. 
  • Some Creole words are formed by reduplication (base words are repeated to form new words). For example friedi friedi to mean fearful or timid, chati chati to mean talks excessively or out of turn.
  • Some Creole words are adopted from other non-English languages, eg, maroon-Spanish, pikni-Portuguese, unu, (you plural) -Igbo
GRAMMAR: rules governing the correct use of language
  • Pluralization is signaled by the addition of the 'dem' after the noun eg. The people dem. Or to emphasize the numerical marker- 'de two book dem'.
  • Possession is not signaled, as in English, with the apostrophe 's' suffix but by the word 'fi' as in 'A fi mi handout'
  • Zero Copular construction. A Copular links the subject to the predicate. It is derived from the verb 'to be'. Creole can have a zero copular structure eg. Jane sick for Mary is sick in Englich or Jane de home for Jane is at home.
SYNTAX: the proper agreement of words in a sentence
  • Patois mainly uses syntax to highlight certain elements within a sentence while English often uses pronunciation by verbally stressing that which is to be emphasized. For example Creole: Is Susan eat di chicken? versus English Susan ate the chicken? Creole: Is di chicken Susan eat ? versus Susan ate the chicken?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Main Point vs Purpose

MODULE ONE (1): Gathering & Processing Information
The purpose of this post is to clear up a mistake that is often made on the exam. The main point of this post is that there is a marked difference between the main point (main idea) of a piece and the purpose for writing a piece and you will be tested on whether you can make that distinction. The main point can never be the same as the purpose and vice-versa. Hence, your responses should reflect that you recognize this fact.

Main Point/Idea
The main point of a piece is the same as the topic/thesis statement. It refers to those words/sentences that capture the essence of the overall piece of writing. The thesis/topic statement is generally found in the first or last sentences of the introductory paragraph.However, sometimes it is not stated and has to be inferred from the passage A good thesis statement does two (2) things. First, it tells about an essay's topic. Second, it presents the writer's attitude, opinion, idea or point about that topic. Let us look at some examples:

Example One: 'From King Leopold's Ghost, by Adam Hochschild, 1998'
When the Atlantic slave trade began decimating the Kongo, that nation was under the reign of a ManiKongo named Nzinga Mbemba Affonso, who had gained the throne in 1506 and ruled as Affonso I for nearly forty years. Affonso's life spanned a crucial period. When he was born, no one in the kingdom knew that  Europeans existed. When he died, his entire realm was threatened by the slave-selling fever they had caused. He was a man of tragic self awareness, and he left his mark. Some three hundred years later, a missionary said, "A native of the Kongo knows the name of three kings: that of the present, that of his predecessor , and that of Affonso."
Ask yourself:
a. Who/what do you think the paragraph is about? (Topic)
b. What is the writer's attitude, opinion etc about it?

Discussion: Even though this is an excerpt of the piece, already you should be able to tell that that the main point/idea of the piece is that 'When the Atlantic slave trade began decimating the Kongo, that nation was under the reign of a ManiKongo named Nzinga Mbemba Affonso, who had gained the throne in 1506 and ruled as Affonso I for nearly forty years.' Let us try another one:

Example Two: 'Adapted from Daniel Pendick, Courtesy of  WNET.ORG (
             Though it's true that tsunamis are ocean waves, calling them by the same name as the ordinary wind-driven variety is a bit like referring to firecrackers and atomic warheads both as "explosives." Triggered by volcanic eruptions, landslides, earthquakes, and even impacts by asteroids or comets, a tsunami represents a vast volume of seawater in motion -- the source of its destructive power.
            On the open ocean, tsunami waves approach speeds of 500 mph, almost fast enough to keep pace with a jetliner. But gazing out the window of a 747, you wouldn't be able to pick it out from the wind-driven swells. In deep water, the waves spread out and hunch down, with hundreds of miles between crests that may be just a few feet high. A passenger on a passing ship would scarcely detect their passing. But in fact the tsunami crest is just the very tip of a vast mass of water in motion, as a tsunami can travel great distances with little loss of energy. The 1960 earthquake off the coast of Chile generated a tsunami that had enough force to kill 150 people in Japan after a journey of 22 hours and 10,000 miles.
            As the waves in the tsunami reach shore, they slow down due to the shallowing sea floor, and the loss in speed is often accompanied by a dramatic increase in wave height. Tsunamis also flood in suddenly without warning. Tsunami waves usually don't curve over and break, like Hawaiian surf waves. Survivors of tsunami attacks describe them as dark "walls" of water. Impelled by the mass of water behind them, the waves bulldoze onto the shore and inundate the coast, snapping trees like twigs, toppling stone walls and lighthouses, and smashing houses and buildings into kindling. 
            The contours of the seafloor and coastline have a profound influence on the height of the waves -- sometimes with surprising and dangerous results. During the 1993 tsunami attack on Okushiri, Japan, the wave "runup" on the coast averaged about 15 to 20 meters (50 - 65 feet). But in one particular spot, the waves pushed into a V-shaped valley open to the sea, concentrating the water in a tighter and tighter space. In the end, the water ran up to 32 meters (90 feet) above sea level, about the height of an 8-story office building.

Discussion: In this example taken from the May 2011 CAPE Paper 2, the main point may actually be located in the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. Therefore, the main point is that 'a tsunami represents a vast volume of seawater in motion - the source of its destructive power.'

The purpose of a piece of writing is generally evidenced by the type of discourse used (See post on Evaluating types of discourse. )The second example, speaking about tsunamis) evidences mixed discourse types. It utilizes elements of exposition, description and narrative. Readers receive indepth information about tsunami wave formation as well as true to life accounts or anecdotes of tsunami attack. This combination of discourse types aids the writer's purpose which is to alert or educate readers about the destructive power of tsunamis. 
Further Reading on 'Purpose': Chapter 10, Writing in English -Hazel Simmonds-McDonald et al

Mistakes to Avoid on  Examinations
Avoid stating the main point and the purpose as the same thing. They may be similar in content but how you state it in your responses should be clearly different:
The main point is that....
The purpose is to....
NOT the main point and the purpose is to...
You will score 0 marks if you respond in this way. The examiner will not be able to tell whether or not you recognize the difference between the two concepts.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Expository Speech Checklist (Oral Exam)

ü Conduct an Audience Analysis
     Ask yourself:
  • What do they have in common? Age? Interests? Ethnicity? Gender?
  • Do they know as much about your topic as you, or will you be introducing them to new ideas?
  • Why are these people listening to you? What are they looking for?
  • What amount of detail will be effective for them?
  • What tone will be most effective in conveying your message? (E.g. neutral, animated/comedic, assertive, serious etc?)
  • What might offend or distance them?             
ü Practice the Speech before a friend or in front of the mirror       
     After you have completed the task, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Which pieces of information are clearest?
    • Where did I connect with the audience?
    • Where may listeners be confused about my description or explanation?
    • Where may the listeners become bored?
    • Where did I have trouble speaking clearly?
    • Did I stay within my time limit? (5 MINUTES)
    ü Complete speech outline with references

    General Tips
    1. Practice the Attention Getter (i.e Short story, Quote, Poem etc, related to the topic, used to grab audience’s attention before beginning speech)
    2. Help audience to listen and stay focused. Avoid lengthy sentences, use humour where appropriate)
    3. Use only the most significant and relevant examples when explaining/describing/informing.
    4. Utilize transition words (E.g. firstly, secondly, In concluding, In closing etc)
    5. Ensure that body language/posture during speech is not distracting and that you are neatly attired

    Wednesday, 9 February 2011

    Language Registers

    Register refers to the perceived attitude and level of formality associated with a variety of language. The relationship between the writer's attitude and the variety chosen is very important in the study of written language. In face to face speech, the listener can easily interpret the attitude of the speaker by examining the speaker's tone of voice, facial expressions and overall body language. This is not possible in writing. The writer has to use speacialized features of discourse to convey or mask attitudes. It is then the reader's reponsibility to correctly interpret the writer's attitude, tone and level of formalityLanguage Registers range on a scale from most formal to most informal. The five levels identified have been given specialized names by Linguists; frozen, formal, consultative, casual and intimate.
    1. Frozen: This is where the use of language is fixed and relatively static. The national pledge, anthem, school creeds and The Lord's Prayer are examples of a frozen register. In essence it is language that does not require     any feedback.
    Example: "All visitors are invited to proceed upstairs immediately."
    2. Formal: This describes language used in official and ceremonial settings. For example in court, in a business meeting, at a swearing in ceremony, in an interview or in a classroom etc. The language used in these settings is comparatively rigid and has a set, agreed upon vocabulary that is well documented. In other words, the language used is often of a standard variety.
    Example: "Would everyone please proceed upstairs at once?"
    3. Consultative: This describes language used for the purpose of seeking assistance as is suggested by the word 'consult'. It also describes the language used between a superior and subordinate. In both cases one person is deemed as more knowledgeable and having greater expertise and the other person is the beneficiary of such knowledge and expertise. The language dynamism between lawyer/client, doctor/patient, employer/employee and teacher/student are examples of this type of register.
    Example: "Would you all please go upstairs right away?"
    4. Casual/Informal: This describes language used between friends. It is often very relaxed and focused on just getting the information out. Slangs are quite often used in these instances.
    Example: "Come on upstairs now."
    5. Intimate: This is used to describe language used between persons who share a close relationship or bond. This  register would take into account certain terms of endearment, slangs or expressions whose meaning is shared with a small subset of persons. For example lovers having special terms of endearment, mothers giving pet names to their children based on some character trait and best friends formulating slangs based on some shared past experience.
    Example: "Come up nuh/ Unu naa go up?/ Unu naa forward?"

    Thursday, 3 February 2011

    Study Skills - SQ4R Method

    Surveying the material involves looking at topics, sub-topics,charts, graphs, maps and summaries before any in depth reading is done. It is what is also known as skimming.

    This involves coming up with questions that you would like an answer for. As you read you should be coming up with answers for your formulated questions.

    This involves reading each subsection in an effort to answer your formulated questions.

    At this stage you should attempt to orally recall all the points you have read.

    Write down what you have learnt in your own words making note of any personal associations.

    At this stage you will go over what was learnt in a particular chapter. This may be done with the aid of review questions.

    Monday, 31 January 2011

    Language (Dialectal) Variation

    Language Variation or Dialectal Variation, refers to changes in language due to various influences. These include, social, geographic, individual and group factors.
    This refers to the variety of language characteristic of a particualar group of people in a given speech community (country) or region. For example one may refer to a Caribbean dialect as there are certain vocabulary items and sentence structures that Caribbean countries have in common.
    There is no definition of creole that is accepted by all. The meaning of the word 'creole' has changed considerably over the years. However, it is normally used to refer to a dialect or language which results from contact between the language of a colonizing people and the language of a colonized people. In the Caribbean, Creole languages are as a result of contact between English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch (languages of the colonizers) and West African languages (languages of the colonized).
    Patois is a word of French origin which translates most closely, in French, to mean 'gibbrish'. It was a word used to describe how foreign and strange Creole languages sounded to the speakers of European languages. Patois is used to refer to a geographical dialect which differs from the standard language spoken in a given country. In Jamaica, for example, the word patois is used to refer to the English based creole spoken. Patois carries the usual negative associations and lack of prestige which characterize non-standard, rural or regional dialects.
    Standard Variety (Eg, English, French)
    This is the variety of language or dialect that is used for formal, official and education purposes. It is also used as an instrument for mass education and communication causing it to acquire greater prestige and uniformity. (Creoles have been observed to lack uniformity as a result of not being standardized.) Most Caribbean countries have a Eurpoean language as its standard variety for formal, official purposes and a Creole language for informal communication amongst native, family and friends. The notable exception is Haiti where the French Creole was made an official language alongside French.
    This is a popular, fashionable use of words and phrases which may be either old words given new meaning or completely new words. In the same way that fashion changes, so do slang expressions. Slang is a normal part of everyday speech but may not be acceptable in certain formal settings. When used in formal writing, in particular, these expressions should be put in inverted commas (For e.g, 'wicked'- Jamaican slang for good/amazing, 'off the chain'-American slang for exciting/good)
    Foreign English
    This refers to varieties of the English language spoken by persons not from ones country.
    Rasta English
    This refers to a special variety of English indegenous to Jamaica, spoken by a religious group of persons called Rastafarians. This variety diffrentiates itself from standard and non-standard English by use of different, specialized vocabulary items. The psychology of 'no contradiction' extends to all aspects of a Rastafarian's life, including language. Hence because it sounds contradictory for oppress -/up-res/ to mean held down in life, Rastafarians refer to this verb as downpress. Likewise instead of participation -/part-icipation/ to mean being fully involved they refer to this noun as fullticipation. The language is also characterized by use of 'I' to signify positivity and the importance of the individual in relation to another, so instead of 'You and I', Rasta would refer to us as 'I and I' to signify that we are both equal in importance. Irie, refers to a good vibe and Ital food refers to food considered good for the body (i.e, Vegetarian based food).