What You Need to Know About : Communication and Language Acquisition and Development

One of the first scholars of communication to consider the links among communication, language, and development was Frank Dance. This entry will start with the definitions he began to use early in the 1970s. Communication, in its simplest sense, is acting on information. Human communication is the way humans act on information to communicate by means of spoken language and its derivatives (e.g., writing, symbolic gestures). Human language is the systematization of symbols, which is syntactic and culturally determined. According to Frank Dance, yet one other definition is critical in providing the developmental piece. Speech is the human, genetically determined, species-specific activity consisting of the voluntary production of phonated, articulated sound through the interaction and coordination of physiological and neural systems.

For Dance, the human capacity for speech is what leads to the inception of the symbol and, further, to the development of human conceptualization. In his view, it is our human speech-making capacity that provides the connections among communication, language, and development. Indeed, cognitive psychologists from Lev Vygotsky through Alexander Luria and Philip Lieberman have agreed with the broad outlines of such a connection. Frank Dance posited more specifically, for the communication field, that when human language is acquired normally, it is spoken, and that the development of spoken language leads to the constitution and effects of specifically human communication.

These kinds of theoretical statements stood out as novelties when they first appeared in the 1970s and early 1980s. Today they are not as controversial, yet neither have they become mainstream. Despite deeper examinations of communication development, we have been unable to either definitively prove or disprove the causality from speech to symbol to human communication effects, but the support is compelling. We look now to the work on these matters that has come to us from other disciplines, then to the current state of thought.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Edwina Ayu Kustiawan