“What We Need is Communication”: “Communication” As A Cultural Category in Some American Speech

Tamar Katriel, Gerry Philipsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


“Communication” is examined as a cultural term whose meaning is problematic in selected instances of American speech about interpersonal life. An ethnographic study, focusing on analysis of several cultural “texts,” reveals that in the discourse examined here, “communication” refers, to close, supportive, flexible speech, which functions as the “work” necessary to self-definition and interpersonal bonding. “Communication,” thus defined, is shown to find its place in a “communication” ritual, the structure of which is delineated. The use of the definition formulated, and of the ideational context which surrounds it, is illustrated in an analysis of a recurring public drama, the “communication” theme shows on the Phil Donahue television program. Implications of the study are drawn for ethnography as a form of communication inquiry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-317
Number of pages17
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1981
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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