Models of Communication

I’ve been kindly shown some materials from a University of Brighton module on Communicating Mathematics. This handout discusses models of communication from Shannon onward, touching on Jakobson’s model of communica􀆟on.


adresser         message        adressee
(emo􀆟ve)      (poe􀆟c)      (cona􀆟ve)


Figure 2: Jakobson’s model of communica􀆟on

Jakobson gives each element a func􀆟on that relates to that element taken in isola􀆟on within the model. So, he describes the addresser’s func􀆟on as “emo􀆟ve”. This is also described as “expressive”. It focusses on the speaker’s a􀆫tude towards the communica􀆟on and may be explicitly emo􀆟ve if, for example, it is angry outburst. However, all communica􀆟on, no ma􀆩er how formal, has an expressive inten􀆟on. Even with an impersonal communica􀆟on about a mathema 􀆟cal topic, the author must have some emo􀆟onal investment in the wri􀆟ng – otherwise, why bother?!


The final element of the model is the code. This is the set of linguis􀆟c conven􀆟ons that govern the communica􀆟on in its par􀆟cular context. Jakobson describes the func􀆟on of the code in the model as “metalingual”, which means the language we use to talk about language. Take, for example, the following possible opening sentence of a mathema􀆟cal paper:

“Consider a finite group G with a normal subgroup N.”

The first word “consider” is used in an unusual way. It is not an invita􀆟on to ponder but rather a request to imagine an example of the object about to be described. This way of using “consider” is quite special to mathema􀆟cal wri􀆟ng. Then there are some technical terms which are only likely to have meaning for the reader who shares the technical knowledge that is assumed by the writer. The use of single-le􀆩er names for abstract objects that can have a complex interior structure is also special to and typical of mathema􀆟cal wri􀆟ng.


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