The term ‘communication’ is ambiguous, despite the fact that it is a daily phenomenon. Definitions of communication vary widely. Besides human communication, some definitions cover animal communication with members of the species, as well as with human beings.
Some selected definitions of communication are presented here to facilitate the understanding of the concept of communication. They cover different aspects of communication, not necessarily unified.
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary defines communication as, “the action of conveying or exchanging information and ideas.”
Peter Little in his book Oral and Written Communication defines communication as, “the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and or organisations so that an understanding response results.”
In this definition, the stress is on i) communication as a changing or dynamic process, ii) transmission of information between individuals and or organizations, and iii) the receiver‘s understanding response.
Here, the communication process involves systematic activity which leads to proper communication of information creating understanding of the message and the receiver‘s expected action. The word ‘information‘ here implies news, knowledge, as well as the sender‘s attitude or frame of mind.
F. A. Cartier and K. A. Harwood
In the Journal of Communication (November, 1953), F. A. Cartier and K. A. Harwood define communication as “a process for conducting the attention of another person for the purpose of replicating memories.”
The emphasis here is on replicating memories. To illustrate, the receiver, while interpreting or perceiving the message, refers to his own past experience which may be pleasant or unpleasant. For example, the word, ‘childhood‘ may take someone to the inspiring, lovely childhood days, while, at the same time, it may bring depression and frustration to others due to their ugly, dark childhood memories. This happens because communication and perception go hand in hand. Both reception and perception are equally important, as they cannot be separated.
According to Allen Lui (Louis), “Communication is the sum of all the things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another. It is a bridge of meaning. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening, understanding and responding.”
This definition gives importance to communication as a systematic and continuous two-way process, which links the sender of the message and the receiver who understands the message as is expected by the sender. Thus the process of communication includes transmission, reception, perception, and understanding.
Keith Davies‘ definition of communication as given in Business and Industrial Communication, “Communication is involved in all human relations. It is the nervous system of an organised group, providing the information and understanding necessary for productivity and morale.”
“Communication is the transfer of information and understanding from one person to another.”
This definition lays emphasis on interaction, sharing of information and understanding between the sender and the receiver.