Talk about Talk

Hello everyone, welcome back! We’ve unlocked the final code for the semester, Speech Codes! It took us a while to get here but we’re here alas!

Speech codes isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It’s simply just a theory about communication and culture. If it comes in contact with different cultures then it becomes intercultural communication. This theory illustrates how language and culture go hand in hand. Also, it has to do with how we develop and maintain culture through our speech codes. What’s your speech code?

Key Terms: 

Speech Codes – symbols and meanings, premises and rules are socially constructed into a system that is connected to how we communicate.

Ethnography – A descriptive study of people and cultures and how they communicate and interact in natural settings.

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Gerry Philipsen developed this theory by undergoing research in 2 different cultures. He distinguished the cultures with 2 names: Teamsterville and Nacirema. The purpose of his research was to develop a general theory that would explain the relationship between culture and communication. This theory was once called Ethnography of communication, however, he changed the name to speech codes theory because he wanted to show that the theory has moved from just description to explanation and prediction. I guess he wanted to prove that it was a good interpretive theory. After all, explanation and prediction are the criteria.

 6 general propositions:

Proposition 1: Distinctiveness – wherever there is a distinctive culture, a distinctive speech code is found. However, it may be difficult to recognize your own speech code without comparing it to other speech codes. This is probably why I hear some Barbadians say “we don’t have a dialect”. Lol I beg to differ.

Proposition 2: Multiplicity – Multiple speech codes are used in any given speech community. We talk to our friends, parents and people in authority over us, differently. We know how what speech is acceptable depending on whom it is we are talking to.

Proposition 3: Substance – A speech code involves a culturally distinct psychology , sociology and rhetoric.

Proposition 4: Interpretation – Communication is interpreted based on how the speech codes are used by the speakers and the listeners.

Proposition 5: – Site – the rules and premises of a speech code completely knitted into speaking itself.

Proposition 6: Force – The artful use of shared codes is a sufficient condition for predicting, explaining and controlling the form of discourse about ineligibility, prudence and morality of communication conduct. By a thoughtful use of shared speech codes a participants can guide communication.


Let’s get Critical

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Despite Philipsen’s efforts to prove this theory was a good interpretive theory. interpretive scholars still had their reservations about the theory and I agree with them. They applauded his long-term participation observation but they criticize his efforts to generalize across cultures and his scientific goals of prediction, explanation and control.

That’s a wrap for now, I hope all of you enjoyed reading all about the various traditions and theories within communication!





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