code model inferential model

Code model:

The communicator encodes the message, by a signal, that the hearer than decodes. Sentences are just complex signals that encode messages.




The speaker selects the message and transmits the corresponding signal, which is received and decoded at the other end, when all goes well, the result of the reproduction in the receiver of the original message.

On this approach, the communication is guaranteed as long as both individuals are functioning correctly, each has an identical copy of the code, and the signal is not destroyed.

The code model exists in the nature, it is correct for animal communication.

e.g.: bee dance, which used to indicate the direction and distance of nectar.

Q: But how do human communicate?


Mary is angry with Peter and she doesn’t want to talk to him. When he tries to engage her in conversation, she might:

1. stare ostentatiously at the ceiling.

2. open a newspaper and start to read it.

3. look angrily at Peter and clamp her mouth shut.

4. look angrily at Peter, put a finger to her lips and whisper `Shh`.

5. say `I m deaf and dumb`.

6. say `I won’t talk to you`.

* What do Mary’s actions communicate to Peter?

* Which, if any, of Mary’s actions encode some part of her meaning?

* Which, if any, of Mary’s actions encode exactly her meaning?

Some of human communication can be achieved without any code.

Language is a code, which vastly increases the possibilities of human communication.

What is conveyed by linguistic communication goes beyond what is coded.

The communicator’s actions provide clues to the meaning, which the hearer must infer.

Inferential model:

Grice (1975)

Communication can be achieved without a code by individuals who can infer each other’s intentions.

The communicator’s behaviour is treated as a piece of evidence about the intentions.

Evidences may be compatible with several different hypotheses and the interpreter’s job to construct the best hypothesis to explain the communicator’s behaviour, the interpretation of non-verbal communication, like the action, involves inference to the best explanation by the intelligent guesswork, rather than decoding of signals by use of code.

An utterance is a piece of evidence of the speaker’s meaning.

Decoding the linguistic sentence meaning is seen as just one part of the process of comprehension. Process relies on both linguistic meaning and the context in order to identify the speaker’s meaning.

Speaker’s meaning in Grice`s analysis, is a complex communicative intention that must be recognized by the hearer in order to be fulfilled.

It is an intention to achieve a certain effect upon the mind of the hearer by recognition.

The communication depends on the ability of human beings to attribute mental states to others. Human spontaneously interpret one another’s behaviour as a belief guided fulfilment of intentions.

In inferential communication the communicator seeks to fulfil the intention by making it manifest to the hearer, the hearer recognize the one, which influences him.

The role of language in inferential communication is to provide the communicator with evidence, as exactly as complex as it wish.

Inferring the intention behind ordinary, non-communicative actions:

* You see me take out the key as I walk towards my front key.

* You see me climbing the tree, looking towards a ripe apricot.

Inferring the intention behind acts of non-verbal communication:

* I push my newly open box of chocolates along the table towards you.

On Grice`s view, `utterance` interpretation as a form of inference to the best explanation:

* We infer the intention behind an utterance by constructing a hypothesis based on evidence

* The best hypothesis is one that meets our expectations about the way speakers should have.

Differences between the code-model and the inferential model:

1. The code model deals with arbitrary links between signal and message.

The inferential model explains how hearers can work out what the speaker intended to convey.

2. Coded communication functions best when the interlocutors share exactly the same code. Any difference in the code increases the source of possible error in the communication process.

In the case of the inferential communication, the situation is quite different. The success of inferential communication does not require that the communicator and the audience have the same semantic representation of the utterance.


Peter: I’m beat!

Mary: Ok, let’s go back home.

Is the meaning that Peter and Mary associate with the word “beat” is the same. It may be that, for Peter, “beat” means an extreme fatigue, while for Mary, “beat” is simply a synonym of “tired”. In any event, Peter says, “I’m beat,” not in order to indicate a degree of fatigue that this term might encode, but in order to indicate contextually both his wish to return home and the reason for it, namely his fatigue. The level of fatigue that may justify one’s desire to return home depends on the situation: it is not the same at a party among friends, while taking a stroll, or at work. In Peter’s utterance, then, “beat” indicates the level of fatigue which, in the situation of the utterance, is relevant in that it justifies Peter’s wish. It is not necessary that the codes between interlocutors be identical; nor is it sufficient.

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