Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 6 : 2 February 2006

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai


S. Rajendran, Ph.D.


Communication is a fundamental notion in the study of behaviour, which acts as a frame of reference for Linguistic and phonetic studies. Communication refers to the transmission of information (a 'message') between a source and receiver using a signaling system: in linguistic contexts, source and receiver are interpreted in human terms, the system involved is a language, and the notion of response to (or acknowledgement of) message becomes of crucial importance.

In theory, communication is said to have taken place if the information received is the same as that sent: in practice, one has to allow for all kinds of interfering factors, or 'noise', which reduce the efficiency of the transmission (Ex. unintelligibility of articulation, idiosyncratic association of words). One has also to allow for different levels of control in the transmission of the message: speaker's purposive selection of signals will be accompanied by signals, which communicate 'despite themselves', as when voice quality signals the fact that a person has a cold, is tired/old/male, etc.

Human communication may take place using any of the available sensory modes (hearing, sight, etc.), and the different study of these modes, as used in communicative activity, is carried on by semiotics. A contrast, which often made, especially by psychologist, is between verbal and non-verbal communication to refer to the linguistic vs. the non-linguistic features of communication (the latter including facial expressions, gestures, etc., both in humans and animals). However, the ambiguity of the term 'verbal' here, implying that language is basically a matter of 'words', makes this term of limited value to linguists, and it is not usually used by them in this way.

The term 'communicative' is often used in a restricted sense. In the phrase communicative competence, for instance, it is in contrast with 'linguistic', a distinction being made between the narrative-speakers' awareness of the formal patterning of their language, on the one hand (their 'linguistic competence'), and the situational appropriateness of their language, on the other.

This emphasis on functional appropriateness also characterises several uses of the term in the field of foreign-language teaching (communicative grammar, communicative syllabus, etc.). Communicative dynamism (or CD) is a fundamental concept of the modern prague school theory of linguistics, whereby utterance is seen as a process of gradually unfolding meaning, each part of the utterance contribute variously ('dynamically') to the total communicative effect. Some parts of an utterance will contribute little to the meaning, because they reflect only what has already been communicated: these 'thematic aspect would be considered to have the lowest degree of CD. By contrast 'rhematic' aspect have the highest degree of CD, containing new information, which advances the communicative process. Other aspects are also recognized.


A typical verb of communication denotes conveying or transferring a message or information to someone. Accordingly a typical process of communication involves at least three arguments: the addresser, the addressee and the matter addressed. These verbs differ with respect to the nature of the message and the way it is communicated. In English a typical addresser of communication (in active sentence) is realized in in the surface structure as an NP which functions as the subject of the verb, the addressee of communication is realized as a PP (i.e. to NP, which is the goal) and the communication addressed as PP or as a complement (that-complement, to-complement, S-complement or ing-complemet). In Tamil a typical addresser of communication is realized in the surface structure as an NP which functions as the subject of the verb, the adressee of communcation is realized as a CP (NP-kku) or POP (NP-iTam) and the matter addressed is realized as an NP which funcitons as the object of the verb.

The aim of the paper is to describe the verbs of communication in English and Tamil and to contrast them so as to find out the syntactic and semantic differences and similarities between the two systems.

To achieve the aim, the following objectives have been kept in mind:

  1. To understand the verbs of communication in general
  2. To find out the syntactic and semantic features of verbs of communication in both the languages.
  3. To find out the argument structure of verbs of communication in both the languages.
  4. To correlate the syntactic and semantic features of verbs of communication in English and Tamil.


In Tamil Thesaurus (Rajendran, 2001), the semantic domain EVENTS comprises of verbs. Verbs are arguably the most important lexical and syntactic category of a language. The verb provides the relational and semantic framework for its sentence. Its predicate argument structure specifies the possible syntactic structures of the sentences in which it can occur. The linking of noun arguments with thematic roles or cases determines the different meanings of the events or states denoted by the sentence, and the selectional restrictions specify the semantic properties of the noun classes that can flesh out the frame. This syntactic and semantic information generally become a part of the verb's lexical entry and thus become part of the information about the verb that is stored in a speaker's mental lexicon. Because of the complexity of this information, verbs are probably the lexical category that is most difficult to study. There are 3312 verbs listed in CreA-vin tarkaallat tamizh akaraati. The list will increase if we take into account the compound verbs.


It must be recalled here that Nida's (1976b) tentative classification of events based on componential analyis consists of twelve semantic domains: Physical, Physiological, Sensory, Emotive, Intellection, Communication, Association, Control, Movement, Impact, Transfer, and Complex activities, involving a series of movements or actions. Rajendran (1978) classified verbs into 31 groups out of which ten are major important semantic domains. The important semantic domains identified by him based on componential analysis of verbs are:

  1. verbs of movement
  2. ,
  3. verbs of transferring
  4. verbs of change of state
  5. verbs of impact
  6. verbs of senses
  7. verbs of emotion
  8. verbs of intellection
  9. verbs of communication and calling
  10. verbs of association
  11. verbs of cooking

Each major domain is divided into subdomains by taking into account distinguishing semantic component. Say for example, verbs of movement is subclassified into sixteen domains such as verbs of locomotion, verbs of wandering movement, verbs of upward movement, verbs of downward movement, verbs of jumping movement, verbs of circular movement, verbs of movement towards outside, verbs of movement towards inside, verbs of scattering and spreading movement, verbs of shaking movement, verbs of slipping movement, verbs of coming and going, verbs of leaving, verbs of chasing and following, verbs of nearing and approaching, verbs of starting and reaching. Rajendran (1991) classifies the verbs into twelve more or less in line with Nida (1976b). The subclassification has been made based on the distinguishing semantic components. The classification may need a second look to make it more user friendly.

Even though verbs do not show hierarchical ordering, a quasi-hierarchical ordering is possible by taking into account certain pertinent distinguishing features.

A detailed description and analysis of the verbs of communication using extensive data from English and Tamil are presented in this long paper. This is not the end of this paper. This is only an introduction. Entire paper is available in PDF format below.


S. Rajendran

Orwell's 1984 : Language of Totalitarianism | Syntax and Semantics of Verbs of Communication in English and Tamil | Practicing Literary Translation -- Fifth Round | The Effect of Text Cohesion on Reading Comprehension | The Discourse of Crossword Puzzles | English and Bengali Interrogative Sentences : A Comparative Study | Language Viewed Clinically | A Socio-Pragmatic Comparative Study of Ostensible Invitations in English and Farsi | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

S. Rajendran, Ph.D.
Department of Linguistics
Tamil University
Thanjavur 613 005
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