15 Verbal Communication Summary


In this chapter we defined verbal communication as an agreed-upon and rule-governed system of symbols used to share meaning. These symbols are arbitrary, ambiguous, and abstract. The rules that dictate our use and understanding of symbols include phonology, semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics. As you recall there are distinct differences between written and spoken forms of verbal communication in terms of levels of formality, synchronicity, recording, and privacy. Yet, new technologies are beginning to blur some of these differences. Finally, verbal communication is central to our identity as humans and it allows us to define reality, organize ideas and experiences into categories, help us think, and shape out attitudes about the world.


  1. In what ways do you define yourself as a person? What kinds of definitions do you have for yourself? What do you think would happen if you changed some of your self-definitions?
  2. How do advances in technology impact verbal communication? What are some examples?
  3. How does popular culture impact our verbal communication? What are some examples?
  4. When you use text messages or email, are you formal or informal?
  5. In what situations/contexts would it be appropriate to speak formally rather than informally? Why?
  6. To what extent do you believe that verbal communication drives thought, or vice versa?



  • abstract
  • ambiguous
  • arbitrary
  • archived
  • asynchronous
  • connotative meaning
  • context
  • denotative meaning
  • formal
  • informal
  • phonology
  • pragmatics
  • reclaim
  • rule-governed
  • semantics
  • symbols
  • synchronous
  • syntactics
  • verbal communication


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