The Development of the Field of Communication: Our Roots

I.    The Classical Period

        A.    The Greek Tradition

                1.     Reasons for the Birth of the Classical Period

                2.     Contributions to the Classical Period

                        a. Corax

                        b. Other Sophists

                        c. Plato

                        d. Aristotle

                        e. Demosthenes

        B.    The Roman Tradition

                1.     Cicero

                2.     Quintilian

II.    The Rise of Christianity and the Medieval Period

        A.    Augustine and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric

        B.    Speech and Hearing Science Treatment as a Sacred Duty

III.    The Renaissance and Modern Period

        A.    Early Renaissance Contributors

        B.    Bacon and Faculty Psychology

        C.    The Elocutionary Movement

        D.    Contributors to the Renaissance and Modern Period

                1.     Campbell

                2.     Blair

                3.     Whately

IV.    The Contemporary Period's Challenges

        A.    Foundations for the Study of Rhetoric in America

        B.    The Growth of Communication Studies

        C.    Contemporary Forces in Rhetoric

               1.   Toulmin

               2.   Perelman

        D.    Mass Communication Research Emerges

V.    Careers in the Field Today


The Development of the Field of Communication: Our Roots

"He who controls the past controls the future.
He who controls the present controls the past."

--George Orwell

The communication field has captivated human attention from very early times. Our current study of communication is grounded in this long tradition. This essay is designed to give you a brief outline of some central events in that history. Of course, this discussion will not give you as much information about these contributions to communication as you might wish (certainly not as much as many would prefer you to have). Instead, you will get a feeling for some major trends which wind their way through communication. To develop your knowledge in detail, you should review some of the sources listed at the back of this essay under "Additional Readings."


Sometime around 3000 years before the common era (abbreviated B.C.E.), Kagemni, the son of Pharoah Huni, received a letter about public speaking from an unknown author. Only scraps remained for later students to read during centuries to follow. Of that first author we know nothing except that he or she could claim the record for being first. Around 2675 B.C.E., Ptah Hotep, the Governor of Memphis and Vizier (Prime Minister) to the Pharoah retired from office and began writing the first book on communication, called Precepts. It passed for a textbook on communication for many centuries. For today's students, the influence of these teachers has been minimal. Even so, they were the first, so they deserve some mention. Now we have done so.

The Greek Tradition

Serious study in communication did not really commence until around 500 B.C. E. From that point on during the classical age, communication was investigated primarily by Greek and Roman teachers.

    Reasons for the Birth of the Classical Period. The reasons for the sudden blossoming of interest in communication were significant. The same reasons that promoted communication studies in the classical age have promoted communication studies ever since. When democracy was attempted in Greece--by which we mean the city-state called Athens--people found that they had to learn to speak for themselves to exercise their rights. Athenian government and courts were operated democratically. The legislative assembly was open to freemen who had the leisure and inclination to attend. Naturally, civic-minded Athenians felt quite a need to speak well. Indeed, if they gave consistently bad advice to the Assembly, they could be impeached outright and banished from Athens! Beginning with the reign of Pericles, any Athenian citizen over thirty years old could act as a juror in courts. Juries of 200 or more often judged people. So, it was very important for people to argue their cases effectively. Of course, if you have ever given a speech (even to a small group) you know how difficult it can be to talk clearly and cogently. The ancient Greeks had the same problem and they were willing to pay people to help them. A market for the talents of early rhetoricians was created. To distinguish matters, rhetorician is a term used to describe one who studies and teaches rhetoric. A rhetor is a person who actually practices rhetoric. The meaning of the term rhetoric will be explained later but, for the moment, it may be considered the general study of communication.

The intellectual climate also was ripe for examining communication. Many ancient teachers, playwrights, poets, and philosophers developed interest in exploring the nature of logic and rationality, language and style, and structure and organization. Thus, intellectually as well as politically, there was an open invitation to those who could teach communication. As with so many other things involving a sure profit, people were quite willing to cash in while the opportunity was there.

    Contributions to the Classical Period. The first communication teachers were known as sophists. The term "sophist" comes from the Greek sophos which means wisdom. Thus, a sophist was a person who used and taught wise things. Today that term signifies a person who uses clever but fallacious arguments. In ancient times, however, the term referred to a group of teachers who traveled around instructing people wherever there was a market. Though many subjects were taught, communication instruction remained a large part of nearly all of the work done by the sophists. They provided very practical and immediate sorts of education. They were not concerned with training future philosophers--they wanted to teaching common folk who direly needed to improve their skills. Many of these teachers were quite competent and highly ethical people, but others of them unquestionably were charlatans. Regardless of whether the sophists were a good or evil force in the ancient world, their influence on communication was substantial.

        Corax was a Sicilian teacher who "invented" the study of rhetoric sometime around 470 B.C. At the very least, he wrote the first detailed work on the art of effective public speaking, Rhetorike Techne. Of the man we know very little. When he was born and when he died is a mystery. Even the book he wrote is no longer available to us. Yet, we know that he had some influence on communication. Along with his student Tisias, Corax developed the study of communication for the courts, which were filled to bursting all around him. Corax defined rhetoric as "the craftsman of persuasion" and he observed that the typical speech had five parts: an introduction, a narration of the facts of the case, argument on the case, subsidiary remarks, and a conclusion. Additionally Corax developed the notion of argument from probability, a concept that still attracts attention. When the argument from probability is used to evaluate cases, we ask which one is the most probable explanation. For instance, if a small man were accused of assaulting a large man, he might defend himself by asking if it seemed likely that he would attack another so much larger than himself. Turning the tables, the large man could ask whether he would be likely to pick on a person so much smaller than himself. Despite criticism from some philosophers, Corax and Tisias made great contributions by suggesting communication as a very practical scholarly study.

        Other Sophists followed Corax and Tisias, and many made significant contributions. Protagoras of Abdera (b. 486-481? d. 416-411?) occasionally called, "the father of debate," wrote volumes on rhetoric and other topics, but only a few scraps of the original works are left. He was most concerned with the ways cases were presented in the courts. He paid much attention to developing lines of argument, dividing speeches into parts, and developing the first grammar of the Greek language. In his instruction, he chose topics that mirrored cases that were presented in the assembly or in courts, and his students prepared full cases for the affirmative and the negative. Key to Protagoras' teaching was the philosophic proposition that "on every question there are two sides to the argument, exactly opposite to one another." Protagoras carried it one step further by claiming that to find the truth of a matter, "Man is the measure of all things." His ideas were fairly advanced for their time, and other philosophers (who believed that there could only be one true side to a question) attacked him, submitting that he tried to make the weaker case appear stronger. Even so, his belief in the pluralism of truth was a major development history of ideas in communication.

In reaction to some of the excesses of the early sophists, Isocrates wrote criticism in works such as Against the Sophists and Panathenaicus. Though a sophist himself, he believed that most sophists were so practical in their teaching that they lacked the nobility and ethical purpose that should be at the root of all successful communication. He urged teachers to emphasize a high moral purpose in speaking and to insist on rhetoric that was not based in self-interest alone. He explored ceremonial speaking as a type of rhetoric that was most suitable to the sort of philosophic seriousness he wished communicators to have. He rejected use of flashy techniques that might distract audiences from the subject of the message while enhancing the reputation of the speaker. His appeal for speaking that reflected good character and concern for ethics was noteworthy among sophists of his time.

Several other early teachers of communication had varying impact in communication studies. Theodorus of Byzantium spent much of his time devoting attention to figures of speech such as the pun and other novel forms of expression. Other early sophists such as Gorgias and Thrasymachus were interested in stylistic forms. Still others, such as Prodicus of Ceos, were concerned with the study of words (called 'philology'). Although making important contributions at the time, their importance for us today has been eclipsed by later scholars.

        Plato (427-347 B.C.E.), the most famous student of Socrates, was perhaps the most hostile critic of the early Sophists' excesses. In his satire of the sophists called Gorgias, Plato wrote a searing condemnation of communication studies. Gorgias, an ambassador to Athens and a sophist given to showy figures of speech and artificially poetic forms, was made the brunt of a devastating dialogue guided by Socrates (who spoke for Plato). Sometimes his specific reasons still are used to attack today's study of communication and the existence of communication departments. Ultimately, Plato advanced the proposition that rhetoric is not an art. In those days "art" meant something much more akin to what we would call "science," while the term, "science" referred to what we would today call "metaphysics" (none of this explanation should be so surprising since our word for science is derived from a Latin root that simply means "knowledge"). Plato thought rhetoric was more of a knack such as cooking or flattery, rather than a serious study. Second, Plato charged that rhetoric had no subject matter of its own, that it used of ther disciplines for its subject matter. Third, Plato claimed that since rhetoric dealt with probabilities rather than truths, rhetoric had no regard for the truth and, a such, was not a legitimate philosophic inquiry. Fourth, he argued that rhetoric does not confer power. Fifth, he believed that rhetoric does not prevent suffering and wrong done to the innocent. Sixth, Plato questioned the ethics of the activity since if rhetoric were useful, it could be used by the guilty to escape justifiable punishment. Ultimately the rhetorician's lack of interest in discovering the truth for each matter irked Plato.  It irked him a great deal.

No one is quite certain why, but when Plato got older he thought some more about rhetoric and suggested that there might be a possibility of constructing a "true rhetoric." In a dialogue called Phaedrus, Plato suggested that seven things would mark a true rhetoric: the rhetor must know the truth (hence, the communicator would have to be a philosopher); the speaker must define the terms of the speech's argument; the principles of order and arrangement of ideas should be followed (every speech should have "a middle, beginning, and end...agreeable to another and to the whole."); the speaker must know the nature of the human soul; effective style (language) and delivery should be employed for the advocate to ("speak of the instruments by which the soul acts or is affected."; the art of writing would be highly regarded as a means of instruction; the speaker must have a high moral purpose (seek those instruments which would make "the will of God prevail"). After both the Gorgias and the Phaedrus, communication writers were particularly concerned with giving their writings philosophic integrity and trying to meet many of Plato's ideals for communication studies.

    Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.), the most famous student of Plato's, was the most significant single ancient contributor to the study of communication was Plato's student, Aristotle. He made the first attempt to develop a complete rhetoric that was both philosophically compelling and highly scientific. Furthermore, the Rhetoric was written on such a level that many of the major truths found by Aristotle still have merit for us today. Aristotle defined rhetoric as "the faculty of discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion." As such, rhetoric was not a practice but a field of study. Aristotle made an attempt to refute some of Plato's attacks on rhetoric by looking at the role actually played by communication in society. Aristotle noticed that rhetoric was the counterpart of dialectic--the practice of logical discussion by use of questions and answers. He submitted that rhetoric would make truth and justice prevail. After all, he reasoned, "because truth and justice are by nature more powerful than their opposites" when injustice or fraud occurs, it has been because advocates have not used effective methods of communication. Aristotle also believed that rhetoric could be useful to instruct people who are otherwise incapable of understanding scientific information. Perhaps the last two arguments on rhetoric's usefulness are most important for communication students today. Aristotle claimed that people should be prepared to debate and discuss both sides of a question so that different lines of argument could be understood and responses prepared. Finally, Aristotle suggested that rhetoric was useful since it provided a means of defense. He persuasively argued "if it is a disgrace to a man when he cannot defend himself in a bodily way, it would be odd not to think him disgraced when he cannot defend himself with reason. Reason is more distinctive of a man than is bodily effort." Aristotle's redefinition and defense of rhetoric gave a firm foundation for the study of communication.

Aristotle claimed that persuasive messages used nonartisic and artistic proofs. Nonartistic proofs corresponded to what is known now as evidence. In his time, however, things were a little different. Legitimate forms of evidence included witnesses, laws, contracts, and admissions under torture. The artistic proofs consisted of ethos (the nature of the speaker as shown by intelligence, character, and goodwill), pathos (the use of appeals to audience emotions), and logos (the use of arguments in communication).1

The Canons of Rhetoric

When the basic laws and principles which define rhetorical studies were investigated during the classical period, very few people seemed to have a grasp of the principles that composed a complete rhetorical system. Eventually, an unknown writer composed a book called the Rhetorica ad Herennium (its title coming to us from the fact that the work was dedicated to Gaius Herennius) sometime around 86-82 B.C. The author has been called Auctor ad Herennium (for author of the ad Herennium) or sometimes just Auctor Incertus (author unknown). Although the book was erroneously listed as one of Cicero's efforts, there is nearly universal agreement that he could not have written it. The most popular alternative candidate is an early teacher known as Cornificius. Whomever he may have been, his book takes credit for being the first to construct a complete rhetorical system. From this initial effort, a system of five canons of rhetoric was developed. This system has remained a popular one through the years and continues to make a great deal of intuitive sense.

In essence, the canons consist of five elements that are major categories for analysis. Students may use these elements to help in criticizing rhetorical efforts. The canons include:

Invention: the types and sources of ideas;

Arrangement: the organization of ideas;

Style: the choice and use of words;

Delivery: the use of voice and gesture;

Memory: the ability to recall passages and examples for utterance.

Aristotle suggested two major ways to develop arguments: the example (reasoning from a group of cases to a generalization about all such cases) and the enthymeme (an argument from probabilities in the form of a syllogism with a suppressed premise).2 Among the major contributions of Aristotle in the Rhetoric was identifying the different types of oratory: deliberative, which was used by assemblies and legislatures to decide among alternative policies; forensic (from which we draw the contemporary term, forensics, which refers to debate and contest speaking), which involved communication in the courts; epideictic or ceremonial speaking, which typically addressed topics of praise or blame. The rest of the Rhetoric was noteworthy for examining emotional appeals, types of audiences, lines of argument, organization, and style.

By the time Aristotle wrote his book on rhetoric, the practical study of communication was drawing to a close in Greece. The type of government was changing, and the ways people could communicate also changed. Eventually civil wars and rebellions ended democracy in Greece. The result was that rhetoric became less and less important. Most people needed to follow orders rather than give advice on controversial matters. One writer has summarized this decline:

The year of Demosthenes' death, 322 B.C., also marked the effective end of Greek democracy. This event was in the long run, fatal to Greek rhetoric and Greek oratory, since deliberations about public policy offered the best chance for orators to acquire the kind of seriousness they often lacked. There are some impressive individuals known to us during the new few centuries, but on the whole one observes a sharp decline. Schools of rhetoric became associated with particular philosophic positions (Peripatetic, Stoic, Epicurean), and the rhetoric itself became increasingly academic. Because subjects for oratory tended to become fixed, emphasis shifted for oratory tended to become fixed, emphasis shifted to delivery and style. In the late classical period, oratory was perhaps more popular than ever before, but it was oratory directed to display; the same crowd that applauded the traveling entertainers applauded the orators, and for no better reason. (Brandt, 1970, pp. 8-9)

    Demosthenes arguably could be considered a pioneer in the study of speech and hearing science. Plutarch, the Greek historian, recounted that Demosthenes had a monotonous voice and stammered when he spoke (C. Simon, 389). Under the guidance of an actor named Satyrus (the oldest known speech therapist?) he improved his diction by practicing a number drills including speaking with pebbles in the mouth (many of today's television sports broadcasters might benefit from the same therapy). Demosthenes later was renowned as an inspirational leader and a gifted orator.

The Roman Tradition

It is safe to say that communication in Rome was important. In the Forum, free citizens' representatives met to decide matters of law and court-related issues. In the Assembly citizens deliberated on new laws, and in the Senate, the Roman governing body made important decisions. At the order of Julius Caesar, the world's first "newspaper" Acta Diurna (Daily Events) was published in Rome during the first century B.C.E. In reality, the newspaper was little more than handwritten bulletins that were duplicated by hand and posted in the Forum. The study of communication found a natural home along the Tiber River for as long as Rome maintained a true Republic. But when the Caesars became permanent dictators, common people needed only the skills necessary to obey orders and accept dogma.

    Cicero. Certainly the most prominent Roman rhetorician was an orator and politician named Marcus Tullius Cicero, also known as Tully (106-43 B.C.E.). Historically, Cicero is one of the most fascinating characters in Roman politics. He is famous for his successful prosecution of Cataline (a politician who was denied a consulship after false accusation of misconduct and who, having become embittered, later attempted to seize the consulship in an armed uprising against Rome), his leadership of the ruling of senatorial party, his partisanship against Julius Caesar, his long-standing hatred for Marc Antony, and his many orations. In the end, Cicero died the death of an orator: he was executed on December 7, 43 B.C.E. after having been declared an enemy of the rule of the dictator, Octavian (who later insisted on being called the Augustus Caesar). Cicero's head was severed and displayed at the Roman Forum--a symbol of free speech and dissent which was not welcome in an already decaying Rome.

Though Cicero's ideas about communication shared much in common with Aristotle's, Cicero and his followers went beyond Aristotle's ideas in many ways. Though Aristotle believed that rhetoric was a way to spread the truth, Cicero believed that communication was a way to discover the truth of a matter. The distinction is an important one. Aristotelians believed that truth was discovered first and communicated second; Ciceronians believed that truth was derived as a product of rhetoric--they did not think that truth existed before it was communicated. Ciceronians were just one step away from noticing that the truth of theoretic explanations is not discovered, but invented.

Cicero's specific contributions to communication were distributed through a series of books written at different points in his life. In 84 B.C. Cicero wrote De Inventione Rhetorica, in which he summarized much teaching on communication, drawing heavily on the work of an unknown author of a book called Ad Herennium. When Cicero was 55 he wrote a treatise called On the Character of the Orator or De Oratore, which described the orator as a philosopher. Sometime later he wrote Brutus (a history of oratory), and Orator, a portrait of the ideal orator.

Cicero believed that the orator must have a broad general education, including mastery of six areas. First, the orator must develop a vast knowledge. Second, the orator must be trained in the careful choice of words and arrangement of thoughts. Third, the orator must know all emotions of the audience. Fourth, communicators should be trained in the use of words to achieve grace, wit, clarity, quickness, brevity, and appropriate humor. Fifth, the speaker must be trained in proper delivery. Sixth, the communicator must develop a trained memory so that the speech's content might include appropriate examples from the past. For all the prescriptions that Cicero used in his writing, he was offended by a communicator speaker who seemed too slick. Instead, he was an advocate of "artful diffidence" or the use of art to conceal art. Among Cicero's most interesting contributions was the development of three styles (the plain, middle, and grand styles), but his view of the use of words was quite sophisticated. Granted, his works occasionally described how to use language as adornment, but he believed that the word was captive of the idea--and to a very real extent, an inseparable part of the idea, itself.

    Quintilian.  Another great "Roman rhetorician," Quintilian, actually was not Roman at all. Born in Spain sometime around the year 14, Quintilian achieved the distinction of being perhaps the world's first public school teacher, having been appointed by Emperor Vespasian (who ruled from 70 through 73). By Quintilian's time, the Roman Empire already was decaying. Quintilian hoped to train young people for a rebirth of rhetoric and democratic decision making--a hope which, unfortunately, was doomed. In Quintilian's scheme of things, the ideal communicator was vir bonus, the good man speaking well. To train a good man and a competent speaker required very broad education. Indeed, such training consisted of a lifelong program of study in communication as well as linguistics, writing, reading, law, history, and some philosophy.

Quintilian was concerned with the principles (principles, not "rules") by which effective advocacy is transacted. Quintilian placed special emphasis on methods to build cases and refined the topic of stock issues (points of stasis, as they were called). Aside from his concern for argument, much of Quintilian's other efforts related strongly to concepts previously developed by Cicero and others of the classical age.

The writing of the Institutio Oratoria is a landmark in the history of Roman education, but not because it pointed to better things to come. It signified the end of an era. As the years passed, Quintilian's work was lost and it was not until 1417 that a Florentine named Poggio Bracciolini discovered the manuscript and offered a translation. The times following the end of Quintilian's "Silver Age" were not good ones for communication studies. The practice of oratory became a matter of great show and grew quite artificial. Students were trained not so much for statesmanship as for performance and display. The use of excessive flourishes was more important than the ideas expressed. In the classical period communication studies flourished each time people needed to communicate to decide their futures. Conversely, every time governments changed became autocratic, the function of communication was lost and people were subjected to a "sophistic" rhetoric, a rhetoric of display.


Typical Roman citizens were not very religious. True, they gave homage to the official gods, and even permitted occasional Caesars to declare themselves divine, but such matters were not taken very seriously. Consequently, when the early Christians found their way to Rome, they were not instantly prosecuted, but were tolerated. Though the Christians might have been ignored in Rome one or two hundred years earlier, when they converged on Rome they were among the only people who had anything to say. Despite some occasional persecutions, one could talk about the soul, virtue, and ethical values, but it was not safe to talk about politics--dictators gave orders about and others learned to keep their political opinions to themselves.

The Curious Collection of Early Christians

While rhetoric was playing a declining role in political life, it was playing a prominent role in the rise of Christianity. The early Christians had been told to speak to others of the rabbi from Nazareth, named Joshua Bar Joseph, whom the Greeks called Jesus. Most of the apostles coordinated churches recognizing each of them as a guiding source, and others began to claim special revelations and powers. By the beginning of the second century, Christianity was split into hundreds of minor sects and groups.

The Marcions believed that there existed two rival gods, one the god of the old testament who was vengeful and distrustful (a negative characteristic which led them to conclude that Jews should be distrusted in general), and one god of the new testament who was loving and promised salvation to the faithful. The leader, Marcion, collected some of the gospels and letters of apostles into a book that could be studied further. Largely as a result of the Marcions, the official canon of the books of The Bible was decided.

Another group called the Docetists believed only in the flesh of God. They thought that Christ was a phantom of the mind who seemed only to live and suffer. The Thedotian sect, on the other hand, believed that Jesus was not born as the Son of God but was 'adopted' by God as the Christ. In a slight variation, the Patripassians implied that God, the father, was the one who died on the cross--that at the moment of death Jesus and God the father became one person.

The Martynus sect believed that the only way to gain salvation was by dying as martyrs for the faith. These people actually relished the thought of being thrown to the lions when Nero persecuted the Christians for allegedly burning Rome. Shaw's Androcles and the Lion featured a zany comedy of the doomed Christians praying that they would not die of natural causes before they were killed, lest they not achieve salvation. These people made a nuisance of themselves in Rome by throwing themselves in front of wagons, taunting Romans into assaulting them, and committing crimes so that they could be jailed or executed.

The collection of groups called Gnostics believed that the world was ruled by two evil rulers, one of whom was the god of the old testament. Jesus was sent from heaven to educate people that they were divinely created by God and that their true home was in heaven. Each branch of the Gnostics had secret rituals and formulas which they believed would protect them from the gods of evil and return them to their true home in heaven.

The Valentinians believed that extreme self-denial could achieve salvation. Contrarily, the Carpocrates and Ophites thought that faithfulness should be measured by the amount of celebration of the "good news" that one showed. They were known for their wild behavior and orgies. They believed that people could be as licentious as they wished since some people were fated to go to heaven and others never would achieve salvation.

Perhaps the most famous early Christian sect was called Manichaeism. Mani of Babylon reported that as a boy he had received a revelation in which God told him that he was the true messiah--supreme above all others. In 242 he established his church and spent thirty years traveling about and raising earning hostility from one North African and Middle Eastern country to the next. Finally, he was crucified but not resurrected. His basic teachings were that the world consists of a domain of light governed by God, and a world of darkness governed by Satan. The world was created in light and goodness, but humans were predominately bad with a spark of goodness. People, he believed, were in a constant state of reincarnation predictable from a complicated study of astrology in which the number five figured prominently. Humanity's fall from grace, according to Mani, was caused by contacts with the evil physical world, not through one's spiritual inadequacies. Hence, Manichaeans did not believe in sin at all; instead, they thought misfortunes were necessary miseries created by contact with the material world. The Manichaean sect was very harsh on its membership. Manichaeans were not permitted any sexual relations and, hence, no children were born into the religion. Nevertheless, the ability to secure converts kept the Manichaeans going for some six hundred years.

On the eve of a risky battle, Constantine the Great (why, we do not know) promised that if the new Christian God would grant him victory, he would become a Christian. He won the battle and converted to Christianity. In 313 he and his fellow emperor, Licinius, issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity a lawful religion of the empire. The Edict did not make Christianity the official state religion, but when Constantine became a Christian of the Nicene creed, many others felt it wise to further their careers by becoming Christians, too. At the time, the Christians of all sects comprised only about six percent of the population. Although the Christians were divided on most issues, the one thing they all agreed upon was that anything pagan had to go. Slowly they began a successful push to rid the empire of paganism, including the writings on rhetoric by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Since Aristotle and Cicero were not Christians, their "pagan" work was forbidden to the masses. No wonder people recall this time as The Dark Ages! Of course, with no teaching on effective communication available, it did not take long for preaching to reach a dismal state.

Augustine and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric

Arising out of this time period was a remarkable man named Augustine (354-430), born in Tagostri in East Algeria. He was a learned man who had been educated in Latin and Greek and who was very familiar with the writings of Cicero. He sought his fortune in Rome. He did not find much fortune, but he did impress many who met him. Eventually, he became a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and was ordained a priest in 391. Because there was fear that he was planning to shift to another Christian sect, he was made Bishop of Hippo shortly after his ordination. From this position he began work on a problem that had perplexed many. The quality of preaching had declined because it was forbidden to study communication from pagan writing, such as that of Cicero and Quintilian. Augustine's solution was to write a clever in a book called De Doctrina Christiana in which he suggested that communicators should imitate methods of great prophets and apostles. Then, to teach the methods of communication developed by Cicero and Quintilian, Augustine found Christian examples. For content, preachers were instructed to reference the gospels and for style they were directed to the letters of the apostles. Augustine hoped that preachers could say small things quietly (as exemplified by the language of Galatians), larger things proportionately (as in the language of Timothy), and great things greatly (as in Corinthians and Romans). Since a sermon's purpose might change from one time to another, the preacher should study the scriptures for messages designed to please, inspire, inform, or move the passions. Augustine used scriptures to teach many of the precepts found in the works of Cicero. Augustine is remembered for accommodating communication studies with the new Christian dogma and for his role as an agent of intellectual history.

During the next six hundred years or so, virtually all contact with classical writings was lost. True, the writings of Augustine, Bede, Cassiodorus, Boethius, Maurus, and Labeo borrowed ideas from Cicero and other classical writers, but the average student was unaware of the link. In the twelfth century, some previously lost works of Aristotle were translated (mostly from Arabic). Church-found universities that had been small and limited undertakings expanded to prominence within a period of less than a century. Such places as Paris, Oxford, and Bologna became famous not only for their political importance, but for the schools they housed. As was bound to happen, the Church issued decrees in 1210 and 1215 that certain of Aristotle's works could be taught, but not others. But there was a catch. The classics could be employed only if they were used to teach matters of church doctrine. A philosophy of education called "scholasticism" was developed. The truth was already known, students were told, the only task remaining was to find new ways to prove truth logically. Regardless of the course of study--law at Bologna, philosophy or theology at Paris, medicine at Montpellier, or liberal studies at Oxford--students studied dogma accepted by the church. The thought of being treated by a physician who has never studied the human body would disturb most of us today, but the fact is that the graduates of medieval schools of medicine did not actually study anatomy. They discussed subjects only on matters which the Church had an accepted policy.

Speech and Hearing Treatment as a Sacred Duty

There were times in both Rome and Greece when the deaf were routinely killed (C. Simon 390). Yet, the rise of Christianity created a different attitude toward the deaf. The earliest recorded European attempt to teach the deaf was by St. John of Beverly in the seventh century.  When the bishop demonstrated his success in teaching a deaf-mute to speak, the Roman Catholic Church promptly declared it a miracle (C. Simon 391).   Later developing a code of charitable deeds, the Church promoted compassion for handicapped people in general.  Care for those with speech and hearing disorders became recognized as a good work that would be rewarded by God. Though growth in care for speech and hearing handicapped people continued, any movements toward major therapies were hard to find, isolated, and relatively short-lived. Speech and hearing science was not a profession, but an act of charity.


Though the study of communication has been largely the product of practical needs to participate in increasingly democratic societies, some practice of communication could be found throughout the world. In the seventh and eighth centuries, the world's first printed newspapers appeared in Peking. The method of printing employed wood blocks, which was a time-consuming method since blocks were prepared individually for each issue and then discarded. Since reporting the news was controlled by the government, only a very limited form of journalism appears to have been practiced. When movable mitred type was developed in Europe during the fourteenth century widespread and rapid sharing of news became possible and journalism began as a serious profession. The early European newspapers usually were one-page long and dedicated to a single significant event. In time, the newspapers became lengthy and featured many reports and considerable advertising.

Sometimes people talk of the Renaissance as though things changed overnight. One day there was very little creative thinking and the next morning the world was bursting with exciting new philosophies and art forms. For the average citizen, the Renaissance was less related to art than it was to government. The old type of government upon which the system depended, "feudalism," was coming to an end. A powerful merchant class pushed for increasingly "relevant" education for their sons. As they did, they wanted matters other than church doctrine to be taught. Protestant reformation leaders were leading a challenge to continued control by the Catholic Church in Rome. Much later, many English and American students organized themselves into debating societies off-campus in a belief that much on-campus schooling was not relevant to their needs. By and large, the thing separating those who felt the Renaissance from those who did not was an attitude: people of the Renaissance felt encouraged to explore new ideas and forms; people of the medieval ages did not.

The Myth of the Printing Press

A common myth holds that Gutenberg's development of moveable mitred type in the middle of the fifteenth century resulted in a substantial revolution in thinking in the Western world. Suddenly old ways of thinking disappeared and the way was paved for the proliferation of new philosophies and points of view. The myth, no matter how compelling, is scarcely an accurate picture of things.

In the first place, Johann Gansfleisch, who adopted his mother's family name of Gutenberg, may not have been the one to invent the movable type printing press. True credit seems to belong to a Dutch inventor named Laurens Coster whose press was operating in the city of Haarlem before 1446.

In the second place, the printing press, for all its importance and potential, probably was less important to the Renaissance than the production of cheap paper in Europe. The invention of cheap paper led to the written theme becoming a substitute for oral classroom disputation as the only method for instruction and testing. Rather than listen to a dry disputation, students could read the words of others and study such ideas at their leisure. H. G. Wells explained:

It is scarcely too much to say that paper made the revival of Europe possible. . . . the intellectual life of the world entered upon a new and far more vigorous phase. It ceased to be a trickle from mind to mind; it became a broad flood, in which thousands and, presently, scores and hundreds of thousands of minds participated. . . . There was not only a great increase of books in the world, but the books that were now made were plainer to read and easier to understand. Instead of toiling at a crabbed text and then thinking over its significance, readers now could think unimpeded as they read. With this increase in the facility of reading, the reading public grew. The book ceased to be a highly decorated toy or scholar's mystery. People began to write books to be read as well as looked at by ordinary people. (1961, 595-596)

The invention of cheap paper made the Renaissance possible. By 1500 there were about nine million books in circulation in comparison with the few thousand which existed in all the centuries before. The inexpensive availability of books to average folks meant that the few religious scholars were not necessarily the sole keepers of wisdom. Common people such as merchants and tradesmen had the feeling that reading gave them enough information to decide for themselves what was best. They were bound to push for free discussion of ideas and the rise of rule by governed was unstoppable.

Early Renaissance Contributors

One of the most influential writers of this period, although today we may wonder why, was a Frenchman named Peter Ramus. In 1555, his book Dialectica proclaimed that each discipline must keep to its own subject matter for the proper education of students. He noted that the field of logic concerns itself ideas and their organization. So, these subjects should not be taught in communication and rhetoric studies. The "Ramistic tradition" held that language and delivery were the only topics legitimately taught by rhetoricians. To many in the Renaissance, communication students seemed only to study wordy ornamentation and bombastic delivery. Communication studies got very bad press because of the strong influence of a scholar whose views no longer are accepted.

Nevertheless, some writers looked back to the classical age to revive the study of communication. Sometime before 1530, Leonard Cox wrote the first English language book on communication, The Arte or Crafte of Rhethoryke - the first English dictionary would not be invented until 1755). More influential than Cox was Thomas Wilson whose Arte of Rhetorique was published in 1553. Wilson discussed emotional proof and logical argument, as well as organization, style, elocution, and memory. His concept of attention had great influence on later writers, but we note him mostly for being a spokesperson for the best of the classical age. Other writers also had their impact as well. Thomas Vicars, Thomas Farnaby, and William Pemble all applied the teachings of Cicero for their students.

Bacon and Faculty Psychology

One of the most significant writers on the subject was Sir Francis Bacon. He is best known as being a lawyer, a man of letters, possibly the true author of some of the works of Shakespeare, and a scientist. Though he wrote no single book on communication, he interspersed his comments on communication throughout his works, chiefly in The Advancement of Learning (1605) and De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623). Bacon accepted a notion called faculty psychology which holds that the mind is divided into separate compartments called faculties. People had a part of mind devoted to reason, another to will, another to imagination, another to emotion, and so on. What the speaker had to do, according to Bacon was find the type of communication which spoke to the particular faculty in question. To Bacon, persuasion consisted of "applying reason to imagination for the better moving of the will." To that end, his work is particularly important to us because he developed a strong link between communication and psychology--a link that continues through our own day and is much of the basis for what now is called "Communication Theory."

The Elocutionary Movement

Of course, many Renaissance teachers accepted the view that communication studies concerned only delivery and language. Thus, they penned a raft of works on appropriate language for both speaking and writing. In 1550 Richard Sherry wrote the first of his books on language, called a Treatise of Schemes and Tropes, followed fifty-five years later by Figures of Grammar and Rhetoric. Other works by Peacham, Butler, Fenner, Gibbons, Stirling, Hoskins, and Rainolde carried the same message to students: use ornamental language to make ideas sound impressive. The many works on language were matched by books on delivery. Robinson's book on pronunciation in 1617 was one of many books that addressed practical speaking skills. By and large, such efforts were not respected because speakers who were trained by elocutionists seemed to have more in common with clowns or troubadours than they did with orators.

A book which now is viewed with both mirth and awe is John Bulwer's 1644 volume, Chirologia...and Chironomia. In this work, a seemingly endless number of potential gestures and facial expressions were outlined to instruct the advocate on each movement's appropriateness of an idea (including 64 types of hand gestures and 25 finger gestures). Though the work seems overwrought today, it should be remembered that Bulwer was concerned with treating the deaf and used his writings to help people overcome their handicaps. Renewed interest in speech and hearing science grew after Bulwer's publication. In 1760 an institute to treat the deaf was founded by Thomas Braidwood in Great Britain. The institute used specially developed methods of oral speech training that remained in prominent use for nearly a century afterwards. At nearly the same time, a school dedicated to the use of sign language (manual communication) was opened by Abbe Charles Michel de l'Epee in Paris. Variations of this sign language approach still are in use today. By the end of the eighteenth century, speech and hearing therapists in the United States were writing their works on the treatment of speech and hearing science. In 1783, Francis Green wrote a book on deafness and its treatment using the Braidwood method. By 1793, William Thornton (who designed the first U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.) wrote on deafness and methods for promoting speech. In 1827, Dr. James Rush published The Philosophy of the Human Voice. Though often misunderstood, this book linked medicine and vocal expression for the first time. Whereas his contribution to speech and hearing science was substantial, his work was addressed teachers of rhetoric more than speech therapists. Though the elocutionary movement is remembered with some disdain, it also is true that it was an area that welcomed work in speech and hearing therapies.

Contributors to the Renaissance and Modern Period

In the late Renaissance, many contributors to theory of communication were developing their ideas. Since they were not concerned with following the artificial boundaries drawn by Ramus, their work often was quite comprehensive.

    Campbell. In 1776, George Campbell, a Scottish minister, published a work for the thinker and scientist called, The Philosophy of Rhetoric.   For Campbell, there were four purposes for communication, each one designed to influence a different faculty of the mind.  First, the source could enlighten the understanding.  Second, the source could please the imagination.  Third, the source could move the passions. Fourth, a communicator might attempt to influence the will.  All of the purposes were judged by the audience's reaction.  Campbell was very concerned with audience analysis and he spent much time investigating the different faculties that each person is supposed to possess.  Campbell submitted that arguments consisted of two types of proofs:  intuitive evidence and deductive evidence--a pattern of classification we still use.  Perhaps the most interesting notion addressed by Campbell was the view that language and communication are inseparable. An effective message uses language that is "perspicuous."  That is, an effective message uses language that creates an image in the receiver's mind.  Taken as a whole, Campbell developed a comprehensive view of the psychology of effective communication.

    Blair. A second writer of the colonial period was Hugh Blair. Blair's 1783 book, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, was a popular textbook in schools for a long time. Blair accepted the notion that a message should be directed toward the receiver for a specific purpose, but he differed from Campbell by selecting only three general purposes: to inform, to persuade, and to amuse--a division still popular today. Focusing his attention on form more than content, Blair examined ways to enhance the eloquence of a message. A singular and somewhat troublesome concept was Blair's notion of taste. In addition to affecting attitudes, Blair thought that advocates should use methods that exhibit good taste. Yet, taste proved difficult for him--or anyone--to define adequately. Today, Blair's effort is recognized mostly in the realm of proper writing and formal use of language.

    Whately. The third colonial writer was Bishop Richard Whately, a Protestant clergyman, who authored some of the most enduring writings on argumentation ever written. Whately published a book called The Elements of Rhetoric in 1828, just two years after he had published Elements of Logic. Whately was vitally interested in developing and refuting cases. Though some writers had considered persuasive speaking and others had looked at composition and prose, Whately viewed rhetoric as the study of "argumentative composition, generally and exclusively; considering rhetoric . . . as an offshoot from logic." Whately believed that one's "understanding" and one's "will" were two separate psychological faculties. As such, communication might be directed toward one without necessarily affecting the other. Thus, he argued that if one wished to move an individual to do something (move the will) one first must convince the 'understanding' that action should be taken (Whately called this step "convincing the understanding" or just "conviction" for short). Then, as a second step, one must exhort the "will" to take the action (called "persuading the will" or just "persuasion"). The result of this notion was the concept called the persuasion-conviction dichotomy. As long as people believed in faculty psychology, the persuasion-conviction dichotomy was a polite way to explain why people could give lip service on an issue without ever doing anything about it.

Whately's discussion of proof requirements gave a firm foundation to communication studies. In particular, the concepts of 'presumption' and "burden of proof" are major hallmarks of his contributions. A presumption lies in favor of any ground on which advocates suggest change. Since change, itself, is not necessarily good, there is a presumption that things as they are will continue until a good and sufficient reason is brought against them. At such a point, the burden of proof has been satisfied and the presumption in favor of existing conditions had been overturned. Whately's contributions are a major influence in argumentation even though this day.


Much of the "stuff" of communication has emerged in the twentieth century. Not only did communication establish itself as a field, but specialties in mass communication and in speech and hearing science emerged. We should look at the development of each area.

Foundations for the Study of Rhetoric in America

Much of communication study in the United States was stimulated by college students who wanted to exercise their democratic liberties.  By 1722, students at Harvard University were meeting regularly at the "Spy Club" to debate issues of importance to them (including taxation, independence for the colonies, and rights for women).  The debating societies even encouraged the use of justifiable emotional appeal and humor.  Don Faules explained the importance of the debating societies and their impact on education:

It is important to note that these student organizations provided education that was not available in the curriculum. The members provided a critical audience that gave a decision based upon content and presentation. The subject matter dealt with contemporary social problems and truth was not predetermined before the debate. (Faules, 1968, p. 8)

At other locations, students organized themselves into debating societies, sometimes even welcoming members of the extended community as members.  The first intercollegiate debate in the United States appears to have taken place in Evanston, Illinois, on November 29, 1872, when the Adelphic Society of Northwestern University met the Athenaeum Society of Chicago University. In 1895 the first debate league was established by the Ivy League schools of Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.  Soon other leagues in both college and high school developed.  This impetus led to the hiring of professional teachers who were trained as debate coaches as well as instructors of Law or English.  Debate became firmly established as part of a comprehensive educational offering.  With it came the establishment of Speech departments at American universities.

The Growth of Communication Studies

Communication studies changed dramatically in the twentieth century.  Despite reliance on faculty psychology during the Renaissance, concern for this approach had virtually terminated by the twentieth century.  In reality, the faculties did not explain anything.  If one noticed a behavior that could not be explained, one merely "invented" a new faculty.  By 1900 their appeal had wizened.  Instead, psychologists looked at behavior from other viewpoints.  The field of social psychology gained popularity and students concerned themselves with attitudes and motivations.  Old and accepted notions alse were being reevaluated. For instance in a series of articles begun during World War I, Charles Henry Woolbert, whose training had been in psychology, virtually destroyed the persuasion-conviction duality.  The abandonment of faculty psychology led to studies of communication as the ways people transact information with each other, not just a study of one faculty's response to a message.

People from many related fields began to make contributions to communication. James Winans, whose degrees were earned in Psychology, joined Charles Woolbert in linking the study of communication with the social sciences.  In 1915, Winans made a name for himself by applying the psychology of attention to communication and public speaking.   His practical discussion of arguments, delivery, and style all benefited from his behavioral background.  The two-thousand-year-old discipline was being established again and the types of thinkers who were drawn to it reflected a variety of interests.

Contemporary Forces in Rhetoric

There continue to be intriguing developments in the theories underlying communication studies.  Though many could be listed, two major writers may be taken as typical examples of the contemporary lines of thinking.

    Toulmin.  A prominent British logician and philosopher, Stephen Toulmin, continues to make potent contributions to communication. His efforts do not constitute a "theory" of communication, but his contributions make a great deal of practical sense. His key element holds that arguments are not formal logical structures but statements made about the nature of the world (data or grounds), a conclusion or inference made about it (claim), backed up by some sort of rationale that makes the whole argument seem reasonable (warrant). Toulmin does not believe that arguments are, or ought to be, subjected to strict logical forms with strange sounding names ("undistributed middle term" made us blush when we first heard it).   People develop arguments that can be evaluated by applying standards from different fields of study.  Toulmin is so concerned that the traditional rules of logic should not be applied to arguments people actually construct that he did not even use the word, "logic," in his 1958 book, The Uses of Argument. Unlike the classical thinkers who believed that the worth of an argument could be determined by applying a set of fixed and never-yielding rules, Toulmin accepts the principles of relativity and tolerance. In fact, one is not concerned whether arguments are "valid" or "invalid." One evaluates an argument by asking how well it appears to explain the subject matter it sets out to argue. The world of communication has been changed substantially because of this twentieth century logician.

    Perelman. Another writer's works have stimulated much interest in communication. Chaim Perelman was trained as a lawyer and as a philosopher and combined these interests in developing a perspective on communication, which he called The New Rhetoric.  A leader of the Belgian underground movement during World War II, Perelman was passionately committed to the idea that free communication should exist, but he also was concerned about preventing the quality of communication sinking to the level of demagoguery that he witnessed under Hitler's domination of Europe.  In his view of language, a message's substance and form are inseparable.  This belief led to developing the concept of "presence."   Presence is the quality of language which makes the subject matter of an message immediately important and "visible" to an audience--it appears that this concept is what Campbell was fishing for when he described "perspicuous" language.   By using language with presence a message may be increasingly successful.

Perelman also rejected classical logic as the best means to evaluate arguments. He did not believe that formal rules could tell us--before we hear an argument--whether reasoning is "valid."  So, how does one evaluate an argument?  Perelman suggested two standards of evaluation.  First, one is asked to apply the "Rule of Justice" to evaluate arguments.  The rule of justice is simple:  give equal treatment to beings or situations of the same kind.  In other words, ask what the precedent is.  If a person has been permitted to argue in a certain way at one point in time, it is a precedent and another person must be permitted to argue similarly.   If we have permitted a person to argue in a certain way at one point in time, we must accept the precedent and permit another person to argue in the same fashion.  To let one person use arguments which would not be allowed others is a violation of the rule of justice and cannot be accepted.  The second standard was called the universal audience.  Perelman asked a critic to imagine the rational mind for the particular era in which an advocate makes arguments.  If such a rational member of what Perelman calls the "Universal Audience" would be influenced, then the argument is considered sensible.  He did not believe that the standards of rationality are unchanging--each epoch possesses its own criteria for reasonableness.  Armed with the concept of the rule of justice and the universal audience, one can evaluate contemporary arguments.

Although Perelman also addressed refutation, organization, and to some limited degree, delivery, his major contributions were in his classification of arguments, the concept of presence, the universal audience, and the rule of justice.  His work may be the most complete discussion of communication to have been developed in the twentieth century.

Habermas' Critical Theory

A German philosopher by the name of Jurgen Habermas has had a surprisingly strong influence on current thinkers in communication theory. Writing in several different outlets over the years, the greatest interest in his notions has been spawned since the translation of Toward a Rational Society, Knowledge and Human Interests, and Communication and the Evolution of Society during the 1970s.

Developing a concept of "universal pragmatics" from his Marxist viewpoint, Habermas set his goal as identifying and constructing "universal conditions of possible understanding." (Habermas, 1979, p. 1) This concern led Habermas to examine characteristics of "communicative competence." Several interrelated elements comprise this notion: (1) communicative action or interaction (including the comprehensibility, truth value, and appropriateness of messages as well as the truthfulness of the source); (2) discourse (roughly corresponding to arguments waged when there is disagreement and arguments must be waged to justify or 'redeem' a position); (3) the consensus theory of truth (a truly rational consensus on the truth of matters); (4) the ideal speech situation (featuring "a 'suspension of the constrains of action,' a putting out of play of all motives except that of a willingness to come to an understanding . . ."). The ideal speech situation does not generally exist, but is something that people might anticipate and use as a critical standard for assessing the integrity of communication exchanges.

In Habermas' system of language, arguments as linguistic strategies seem to function as a "medium of interrelating three worlds; for every successful communicative action there exists a threefold relation between the utterance and (a) 'the external world' as the totality of existing states of affairs, (b) 'our social world' as the totality of all normatively regulated interpersonal relations that count as legitimate in a given society, and (c) 'a particular inner world' (or the speaker) as the totality of his intentional experiences." (1979, pp. 66-68) In describing these functions, Habermas develops a complex typology of communicative acts.  Four general types of action are developed by Habermas:

communicatives (e.g. say, express, speak, ask, mention) which express the pragmatic meaning of utterances qua utterances; constantives (e.g. state, assert, describe, explain), which explicate the meaning of statements qua statements; representatives (e.g. admit, confess, conceal, deny), which are used with propositional contents containing intentional verbs (e.g. like, wish, want) to explicate the meaning of the self-representation of the speaker before the hearer; and regulatives (e.g. command, forbid, allow, warn), which explicate the meaning of the speaker/hearer's relation to rules which can be followed or broken (McCarthy 138). Since the classification carries validity claims with it, the suitability of the scheme for developing tests of argument has been an intriguing prospect.

There are other contributions in the contemporary period, such as Bitzer's notion of the rhetorical situation, David K. Berlo's model of communication, Walter R. Fisher's narrative paradigm, and Alfred Korzybski's development of General Semantics.  The impact of such writers has been great.  The major contributors to our contemporary study continue to be those who have sought new directions in organizing information about communication.

Mass Communication Research Emerges

Though there have been critiques of mass media communication for as long as newspapers and periodicals have existed, the serious investigation of mass communication as a research field has a very recent history. The first school of journalism was established at the University of Missouri in 1908 under a grant from newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer. Yet, there is general agreement that serious a systematic research into mass media was stimulated by an interest in identifying and understanding the nature of propaganda (Wimmer and Dominick, 1983, p. 5;  Delia, 1987, p. 29). After World War I, Harold Lasswell led the way in mass media studies by examining the impact of propaganda. Much of this research involved "content analysis" of messages from government and from mass media sources. In 1937, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis was founded to expose techniques used by 'propagandists.' The most prominent contribution of the Institute and its followers was the famous seven "propaganda devices" also popularized as the "ABCs of propaganda analysis." ("How to Detect Propaganda," 1937, p. 3) These items may be applied to messages to reveal potentially deceptive strategies, especially the strategies of name calling, glittering generalities, transfer, testimonial, plain folks, card staking, bandwagon. The Institute examined government reports, pressure group pamphlets, and even The Bible, finding each riddled with propaganda devices.  Finally, when the United States entered World War II, the Institute voluntarily closed its doors.

In a trend that continues to this day, public opinion research has played a large part in mass media studies. Scholars from all the social sciences as well as historians and teachers of literature, looked at public opinion as a shaped by the mass media's messages.   In 1937, Public Opinion Quarterly was inaugurated as a journal to publish research on public opinion and survey polling methods. Initially much of this work was done without much attention to theory, but after a time, scholars attempted to explain how mass media produced its effects on people.  The result of this work was research on the ways people use mass media and how messages produce subtle effects (Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955; Klapper, 1960).  The theory of "uses and gratifications" and the "two stage flow" of massage influence began theoretic advances that came from this tradtion.  Developing models to promote sophisticated social science inquiry, Wilbur Schramm linked studies in mass communication with empirical study of of social phenomena (Delia, 1987, pp. 76-77.)

The rise of research into advertising developed into a strong area in mass media studies starting in the 1950s. Though much of the research continued to be privately held, much work was published in one form or another. In many research institutions, mass media researchers developed strong partnerships with advertising clients. Applied research became, and remains, a major part of the work done in mass communication studies.

Concern about the social impact of mass media, espcially television and radio, were major concerns that have promoted extensive study. The potential positive or negative effects the television may have on children has been a major concern. In 1957, the Journal of Broadcasting was founded and studies of the content and impact of television programming was given a home.  With the establishment of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (the Annenberg family published TV Guide), a systematic program to track television content was established. Over the years, studies on the amount of sexually oriented material and studies of the amount of violence on television programs (especially children's programs) was begun. Studies of the effects of such violence on society and aggressive behavior of children have been continued objects of research interest.

Although journalism studies had been limited to issues related to writing and its effective or ineffective practice in newspapers and magazines, by the end of the 1950s, journalism as a field of research had taken on its own momentum. Today journalism research includes studies that analyze the content of current messages, trends in newspaper and television coverage of significant events, historical research into the foundations of journalism, measurement of readability and human interest, and legal regulation of the mass media.


After a search for identity and establishment of a regular research tradition, the field has gravitated toward many specialty areas. Within each interest area careers have been found. Today, the scope of careers available in communication is extensive. Rather than asking, "What can I do with this major?" one might ask "Where do I start?" In recent years--for very different reasons--some schools and professional organizations have attempted to determine the areas in which careers have been seen in communication. The results of their surveys have not been widely available, and any numbers may vary widely from one location to the next.  Even so, there are trends that appear fairly consistent.

As might be expected, studies in journalism and mass communication provide training for immediate careers in newspaper and magazine publishing, in radio broadcasting, and in television production. These areas have grown increasingly technical in nature and the training required for a career in them has become very specialized. In addition to traditional training in writing, national accrediting organizations for journalism have been insisting that students of journalism take coursework in a broad scope of subjects outside journalism. Students of mass communication increasingly have been sought for careers in public relations, including management of publicity, press relations, and promotional activities.

Students of speech and hearing science find many careers waiting for them in the helping professions. Speech and hearing students who become trained as practicing clinicians find most of their careers in the public schools, in hospitals, in government agencies, in private foundations, and in private practice. Certification by the American Speech and Hearing Association, although not required in many states, is an expectation for nearly all entry level positions in speech and hearing science. Students of speech and hearing science work along side other health professionals in such application areas as audiology, help for hearing disabled, treatment of aphasia, therapy for cerebral palsy, correction of speech articulation disorders, and help in the control of stuttering.

In general communication studies (of called speech communication or interpersonal communication studies), the image of the skills is not well defined by the community. Nevertheless, the career success of people in communication is substantial.  Such as they are, the data3 indicate that large numbers of undergraduate communication majors plan graduate studies that lead to careers (listed in descending order) in education, the law, and the ministry. An increasingly large number of students have found successful careers in the areas of business, especially (listed in descending order) in personnel, training and development, sales, public relations, advertising, and general management. Of these areas, training and development and sales have experienced noticeable growth during the last twenty years. Still others have taken up careers in community affairs organizations, government, broadcasting, banking, transportation, and medicine.   Many operate businesses that provide consulting or professional speaking services for business and government groups. To get a "foot in the door" many communication majors seek internships in areas of potential career interest. Once initial experience is gained, the chance for offers of career employment increase greatly.




    1Actually, 'logos' is a Greek idiom which refers to a combination of both the 'idea' and 'word.' Thus, the word, 'logos,' seems to reference an expression of an idea.

    2Strange as it may sound, Aristotle invented logic. People may have been reasonable before him, but he was the person who developed the formal logical tools that allow us to test the integrity of reasons. His chief tool was called a syllogism. A syllogism is a deductive form of reasoning in which two premises lead to a conclusion. For example:

Major Premise: All men are mortal.

Minor Premise: Socrates is a man.

Conclusion: (Therefore) Socrates is mortal.

Since people do not usually state all the premises in their arguments, Aristotle invented the concept of the enthymeme. In the enthymeme, one of the premises is omitted and, hence, the conclusion can only be probably true. For instance, one might state, "Socrates is going to die one of these days.  He's only a man, you know."

3This abbreviated report is drawn from surveys completed at three universities where the author has worked. To the author's knowelge, none of the studies has been published.



    Brandt, W. J.  (1970).  The rhetoric of argumentation.   Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill

    Delia, J. G. (1987).  Communication research: A history." In Handbook of communication science, C. R. Berger & S. H. Chaffee (Eds.)  (pp. 20-89). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    Faules, D.  (1968).  History of forensics.  In Directing forensics:  Debate and contest speaking, D. Faules & R. Rieke (Eds.) (pp. 1-30).  Scranton, PA: International Textbook.

    Habermas, J.  (1979).  Communication and the evolution of society. Boston:  Beacon Press.

    How to detect propaganda.  (1937, October).  Propaganda Analysis, 1, 3.

    Katz, E., & Lazarsfeld, P. F.  (1955).  Personal influence.  Glencoe, NY: The Free Press, 1955.

    Klapper, J. (1960).  The effects of mass communication.   New York: Free Press.

    Lasswell, H. D.  (1927). Propaganda techniques in the World War.  New York:  Knopf.

    Simon, C.  (1958).  Development of education in speech and hearing to 1920.  In A history of speech education in America, K. R. Wallace (Ed.) (pp. 389-421).  New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Wells, H. G.  (1961).  Outline of history.   Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

    Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R.  (1983).  Mass media research: An introduction.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.



DATE OF ESSAY:  August 1997, John C. Reinard

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