Do Communicants Transmit Information in Course of Speech Communication?

Cover Page

Cite item


The article questions if human speech communication (SC) involves “a transfer of information”. The information functioning in speech communication is dwelled upon in the information and systemic activity approaches. The informational approach adequately explains only the direct method of information transfer, while the systemic activity approach is relevant for the sign-mediated speech communication typical for human interaction. The more heuristic thesis is that the perception of the chain of linguistic sign bodies produced in the intersubjective space only starts the construction of the perceived speech message content by the recipient. The completeness of the constructed speech message content depends entirely on the recipient, who has the optimal common consciousness with the speaker. The purpose of speech messages is not the actual construction of the content by the recipient, but the development of the message personal meaning. In human speech communication, the communicants do not transmit information, but use verbal signs bodies to actualize images of consciousness which are developed within a single ethnic culture and therefore are common for them. The incentive for the common consciousness development by the communicants is their participation in joint activities that ensure their earthly existence.

Full Text


The aim of the article is to throw into question the assertion stating that in course of speech communication (SC) “the information is transmitted”. Such reductionist assertion doesn’t lead to any cognitive advantages but impedes the construction of adequate SC apprehension.

Denoting the process of transferring speech messages from a speaker to a recipient provokes a few misguiding conclusions: being a subject of a speech message, a speaker determines wholly both the volume and the content of the speech message which is transferred to a recipient; the content is integrated in a speech message itself.

One could come across those assertions on the pages of linguistic studies, and often in the implicit form, though as is well-known, the perfection of understanding the content of any utterance is different either by an adult or a child. The existence of texts in unknown dead languages also proves that texts themselves contain nothing but the bodies of linguistic signs.

Every and all most adequate attempts to explain the processes of SC understanding/misunderstanding by the bearers of ethnic languages are par excellence localized within the frames of informational and systemic activity approaches.

The origins of the informational approach (IA) rise from the studies by K. Shannon [1], N. Wiener [2], L. Brillouin [3]. The systemic activity approach dates back to the cultural and historic school of L.S. Vygotsky, and this approach mainly (but not finally) was developed by L.S. Vygotsky and his ardent followers A.N. Leontiev and R.A. Luria, and also S.A. Rubinstein.

The systemic activity approach in relation to informational issues involves the following. The most important human psychological functions are considered to be targeting-and-research functions promoting to investigate cultural objects (meeting human demands), instruments, actions and operations. Mutual activity (MA) carried out in the form of object-and practice actions, create such a phenomenology the elements of which become the instruments of mental activity due to the internalization.

Targeting components of the MA object, mediated by linguistic signs (and other symbols) become cognitive means and then in case they function as the instruments to manage and conduct the activity to create cultural objects, they turn into images of consciousness. A.N. Leontiev explaining the process of consciousness formation, writes, “Reflection of the object activity products externalizing connections, relations of social individuals appear to them as the phenomena of their own consciousness [4. P. 96].

Which is why the members of a society having appropriated the native ethnic culture and having formed similar consciousness, do not transfer to one another any information but actualize identic images of consciousness of each other or verbal meanings by means of both linguistic and non-linguistic signs.

Therefore to achieve the target formulated, we’ll have to try and manage it after analyzing cognitive potential of both informational and systemic activity of approaches. As was shown [4], the transfer of information could be traced down to two types: the immediate and indirect or mediate ones, and consequently, the information itself could be divided into immediate and mediated ones as well. The direct or immediate means to transfer information used to be described as a ratio of “reason and consequence”; it’s applied to analyze the connection of source-reason to transfer its structure to the recipient having kept and reflected this structure: e.g., while stamping metal samples, the stamp gives its form to the half-way product; while printing painted paper block, the paint block leaves the imprint on the paper.

Another way to transfer information is also an interaction of the two objects by means of mediate signs and signals. If the immediate, direct means confine the role of signal to the reason, its consequence brings structural change of the recipient, thus the transfer the ‘source structure” is induced into the ‘recipient structure”, while using the mediate (signal) means the ratio of the “source” and “recipient” is quite different: “signal could be defined as such an outward influence on the recipient system, which plays the role of the “starting rush” including the response reaction of some ready-made program. L.F. Chertov, probably the most effective analyst in the field of information functioning issues in the society, draws the following conclusion on the SC informational process of society members as the bearers of ethnic culture, having determined the consciousness of communicants, “Under the signal mediation, the “source — recipient” ratio and the “internal structural organization of the “recipient” makes up the crucial factor to govern the quantity and quality of the information the recipient extracts due to the signal. At the same time, the structure of the outward influence doesn’t play the role of the main identifier, which forms the self-content of the message which it plays in the situation of direct structural transfer — as just this program, but not the signal structure (!) determines structural features of relations changed…” [5. P. 25].

In terms of such understanding of informational transfer process, when there’s no real transmission; the term “information transmission” ipse se becomes metaphorical and misguiding if it’s used to denote and analyze human SC, while the signal is just launching the recipient’s reaction.

Analysis of the mediate communication by means of linguistic signs

In human SC, information transmission processes are always integrated into MA (Mutual Activity) and in most instances used to be mediate signs just to launch the recipient process to produce new knowledge of his, which linguists normally and simply qualify as the process to “transmit — receive the information”, however, without extracting any cognitive benefits or bonuses of the assertion.

To understand the functioning of any cultural object as a sign, one should remember that in the inter-subject space of the communicant the sign does reveal just its own substance, available for their sensory organs, and the general knowledge associated with this substance stay in the communicants’ consciousness. Therefore it’s a human being, a man is obviously needed to make it function any cultural object as a sign body, as it’s a man who possesses end-organs, and it’s his consciousness to carry out the process of knowledge producing metaphorically named “information transmission process”.

If to take into consideration the thesis that knowledge of the real is being formed in the subject’s consciousness realizing the orientation and positioning in this very real, and it never-ever leaves human body staying in the cognitive mental form — the thesis to be generally accepted, the assertion on the man-to-man ‘information transmission”, seems absurd, at least.

The conclusion of SC containing linguistic sign is first and foremost the result of communicants’ consciousness functioning, would be reasonably transferred on constructing the content of speech messages. Which is why, every support is worthwhile to approve the L.F. Chertov’s idea of “a signal <… > should be determined as an outward influence on the system — the recipient, which plays the role of ‘staring inrush’ involving the action of a certain ready-made response program” [5. P. 25].

One shouldn’t overestimate the significance of the idea that such a program is to be established beforehand, set into the organization of reacting system, and thus be aprioristic, antecedent concerning the given signal influence (emphasis added. — E.T.), because this idea highlights the most important SC issue: using the sign bodies, only those communicants who possess common general consciousness that is general knowledge of the ethnic language and culture, could efficiently communicate [6]. To put it otherwise, the efficient SC supposes and previews the communication within the structure of native ethnic culture and between those communicants who have already acquired the same ethnic culture and, consequently, they have formed both linguistic and non-linguistic consciousness of the highest degree of their identity that promotes the communicants to communicate by means of signs.

Before we are going to try to adopt the issues of the SC process, let’s give an answer to seemingly trivial question: “What for do people communicate?” Naturally, one couldn’t accept the standard answer to the question that people are communicating just “to transmit information”.

In our opinion, the most adequate answer to the question concerns the following. A man in the society couldn’t survive singly, so he has to collaborate with other members of the society in the frames of various MA which let him satisfy his vital necessities. To organize his MA, every member of the society has to develop SC, and for the purpose, he has to master the managing of his own and his partner activity that is to perform and realize interaction in the definite given SC nomenclature to use the process to develop his own life. To fulfil MA, partners should coordinate their target (otherwise, MA is not possible), to know their way in the situation and among the partners, to choose and elaborate the instruments and operations of both the outward (instrumental and inward (mental) actions.

In course of collaboration in existential acts, MA needs the adequate orientation activity of all the MA participants previewing the results of the orientation and executive activities be available for the optimal number of partners in the SC frames, which demands to rely on the efficient sign system to produce and receive speech messages for the MA causes.

Code connections between the addressant and addressée (speech message producer and recipient) supposes the existence of the verbal code means enabled to model the omages of communicants’ consciousness which help them reflect the objects of their ethnic culture and the relations of those.

One shouldn’t forget, though the bodies of linguistic signs in their substance don’t possess any information, the communicants do possess the knowledge and capabilities (to use lexical linguistic units) and abilities (to use grammatical linguistic units) to construct chains of linguistic signs bodies in course of creating messages concerning any MA and any SC acts in their ethnic culture.

If we analyze communicative abilities of the members of modern society, we would have inevitably make a conclusion that they have to possess the consciousness which have formed in that society and according to the rules they are interacting with one another, moreover, they have to master the language of the culture bearers, so that to reach the unified understanding of senses and meanings, reflecting MA in individual consciousness as the ethnic language, at least, in its codified sphere has an ability to make comprehensive any unique senses and meanings of the bearers of their own ethnic culture. This conclusion is based as of L.S. Vygotsky’s ideas of reflecting the thought in words which makes emergency verbal act of thought reflecting the real in a very different way when it’s reflected in immediate feelings and perception” [7. P. 17].

Signal (indirect, or mediate) connections of communicants supposes the existence of the code of a given inward structure (in structural linguistics studies, it’s called a system). The substance of the code units (linguistic units), as was said above, without possessing any content, but being associated with certain knowledge in the recipient’s consciousness, in course of speech perception, starts the orientation activity aimed at perceiving the bodies (linguistic signs), the construction of images to perceive those bodies, retrieving and recollecting from the recipient’s memory the images of cultural objects (in linguistics, denoted by means of word meaning). Then the recipient aiming at the meanings of signs and considering their grammatical forms, constructs the content of the perceived speech message through his own actual knowledge of his ethnic culture. After that, the recipient tries to reveal the sense of the content constructed by him himself by means to correlate this content with the recipient’s target to attain in the MA where the sense perception of speech message has taken place.

In this case, we mean the sense, according to A.N. Leontiev, as a personal, individual sense of an object, action, word, which is formed I the evaluative process of the life meaning of the subject-recipient [4. P. 111].

Due to the fact that SC, directly or indirectly, used to be always connected with the partners’ MA targets the formation and understanding of the sense itself but not the content of the speech message, is the actual target of communicants.

After we have tried to validate the idea that by means of indirect, mediate signs among the communicants the sign bodies play the role of “starting inrush”, launching the recipient’s orientation activity along the analysis of speech chain, we’re going to demonstrate how the construction of the content of the received speech message works.

Moreover, it was shown that communicants should possess general knowledge of linguistic signs substance (phonetic and phonologic ones), of relations among parts of words and words (as lexical units), of linguistic means and instruments to model connections between objects of the real reflected in communicants’; consciousness (grammatical means).

Still, the impartial analysis of speech chain which the recipient would have to do, — is just the start of his orientation in linguistic characteristics of the speech messages to be finalized with the construction of its content by means of his ethnic culture and transfer of this content in personal, individual sense, which beyond the process of meaningful perception is conserved in the recipient’s consciousness as images, reminiscences later used as secondary images [8].

In conclusion, we’ll try to demonstrate the way the perception of speech chain undergoes and gives the inrush to the processes of knowledge construction to substitute the reductionist idea of “information transmission”.

The perception of a sounding word starts with the accumulation of sensory mass which through the sensory images conserved in the recipient’s consciousness is identified as a sound and then by means of applying perceptive samples and models is identified as a definite sound of the sounding word. After the identification of the sounding word, out of the consciousness, there comes the call for the image of the object (action, phenomenon, etc.) which (the image) is associated with the image of the identified sounding word. The chain of images of the words perceived together with the associated object images with respect to word grammatical exponents allows construct the content of the received speech, and at that, the content is constructed of the word images conserved in the recipient’s consciousness. The sense of the constructed content, as was said before, the recipient understands as the “sense for the sake of itself” and “the sense the speaker”, but as a matter of fact, for the latter, it makes only hypothetic personal sense, the potential of which depends on the exact awareness of the recipient about the MA speaker’s target.


To sum up, one can proceed from the following presentation of the “information transmission” process. The information transfer has got the character of immediate and mediate (direct and indirect) transmission by means of signs.

Human SC is maintained by the signs that play a role of the “starting inrush” to make recipient begin constructing the content of the perceived speech message using the knowledge obtained.

Consequently, knowledge (information) contained in SC, is not transferred but constructed by the recipient on the basis of his own knowledge, and each time anew.

Such representation of “information transmission” in course of the SC process re-orientate a researcher and makes his efforts intelligent and heuristic ones.


About the authors

Evgenij F. Tarasov

The Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences; Autonomous Non-commercial Organisation of Higher Education “Russian New University” (RosNOU)

Author for correspondence.
SPIN-code: 3606-3220

Doctor in Philology, Professor, Head of the Department of psycholinguistics, The Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow; Professor of the Department of Linguistics and Intercultural Communication of Russian New University (RosNOU)

1/1, B. Kislovskiy per., Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009; 22 Radio St., Moscow, Russian Federation, 105005


  1. Shennon, K. (1963). Works on information theory and cybernetics. Moscow: IL. (In Russ.).
  2. Wiener, N. (1958). Cybernetics and Society. Moscow: IL. (In Russ.).
  3. Brillouin, L. (1960). Science and Information Theory. Moscow: State publishing house. (In Russ.).
  4. Leontiev, A.N. (2012). Activity. Consciousness. Personality. Moscow: Kniga. (In Russ.).
  5. Chertov, L.F. (1993). Signity: the experience of theoretical synthesis of ideas about the sign method of information communication. Saint Petersburg: Publishing House of Saint Petersburg University. (In Russ.).
  6. Tarasov, E.F. (2020). To the problem of the common consciousness of communicants. Tula Scientific Bulletin. Series: History, Linguistics. Online edition, 4 (4), 128—135. (In Russ.).
  7. Vygotsky, L.S. (1982). Thinking and speech In Collected works: In 6 volumes. Vol. 2 Problems of general psychology, V.V. Davydov (Ed.). Moscow: Pedagogika. (In Russ.).
  8. Gostev, A.A. (2007). Psychology of secondary images. Moscow: Institute of Psychology RAS. (In Russ.).

Copyright (c) 2021 Tarasov E.F.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies