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Models of communication by Jakobson and Lotman

The one of sciences that studies communication acts is semiotics. Yu. Lotman defined this science as a focus on communication systems and signs, which are used by people in the process of communication.

A communication act where the sender, information, and receiver are present may be considered a semiotic model of communication. In the first period of his activity, Lotman while analyzing communication acts in art and culture has used R. Jakobson’s functional model of communication.

Jakobson’s model was based on the information theory or model called Shannon and Weaver's information-coding model of communication. It must be admitted that it is usually relevant for the transmission of technical information (signals).

R. Jakobson also applied ideas of Shannon in linguistics and semiotics. In his article called «Linguistic and poetics», he distinguished six factors participating in verbal communication, which form the total communication model:

The addresser or speaker sends a message to the receiver. The message also requires a context or «referent» which has to be understandable by the receiver and either verbal or capable to be expressed. The code is fully, or at least partly, common to both the addresser and receiver. The last one is contact, a physical channel or psychological connection between the addresser and the receiver, aiding both of them to enter and stay in communication.

Jakobson stated that for each model’s element there is a specific function of language. He indicated six functions:

    The emotive or «expressive» function;
    The conative function;
    The phatic function;
    The multilingual function;
    The poetic function;
    The referential function.

According to Jakobson, the sender and receiver of information has to know and possess absolutely identical codes for the communication process. As far as a code determines language, this means that these two participants of communication must know the language code (in synchrony) on which the information is transmitted. The purpose of such a communication model is a reception by the receiver of accurate information sent by the addresser in the same form as it was sent. Everything new in the message is considered undesirable. That is why any change of original information at receive is determined as noise and disturbances, consequently, it is undesirable.

Lotman slowly shifted from Jakobson’s model, considering that it explains an ideal (abstract) variant of the communication act when the speaker and receiver possess absolutely identical codes in equal measures and that there is no place for misunderstanding between them which is treated as undesirable and appears in the result of noises and disturbances. On contrary, Lotman evaluated such as a source for creative initiative or the creation of new texts-messages. Speaking about Jakobson’s model, Lotman concluded that this model does not perform the main task of communication – the creation of new texts-messages. Lotman believed that it is the essence of communication. For its realization, Lotman suggested that there should be a connection between the language space of the speaker and the hearer.

Processes of communication Lotman understood as a process of text translation from the language of the speaker to the language of the hearer, which are not identical but have a lot in common. As a result, in the process of communication act, a new text is created which is different from the original one (speaker’s).

As an example, Lotman defined art as a means of communication connecting those who transmit a message with the person receiving it. In this way, speaking about the act of art communication at the artwork perception, Lotman pointed out the need for the following «the author’s code and the reader’s code must form intersecting sets of structural elements. For example, the natural language in which the text is written has to be understandable to the reader. Non-intersecting parts of the code form field, which is distorted, or by any other method reorganized in the channel from writer to reader. By this virtue, a new meaning is created, which is especially typical for artistic texts.

Such Lotman’s polyglottical model of communication act is more relevant for the description of communication in art than Jakobson’s model. However, in semiotics, it is generally accepted that artworks communicate according to Jakobson’s model. It is not correct, because Jakobson’s model is not able to transmit the key communicative importance of art, which is the creation of new meanings or senses, as Lotman established.

In the article called «Three functions of the text», Lotman determined three functions exerted in any artistic text:

 1) Transmission of persistent information, which corresponds to Jakobson’s model;

 2) Generation of new senses – a creative function that corresponds to polyglottical model of Lotman;

3) Memory function which also may be called cultural tradition; this function is necessary for the previous function.

Here is the demonstration of an action of Lotman’s second function in cinematography at the creation of motion sense during sticking of two frames at the so called «Kuleshov effect». According to Lotman, a frame is a minimal element of motion language as a word in language. If we would take two frames and montage or stick them together, we will get a new meaning, which was absent either in the first, or in the second frames separately. Lotman defined such montage effect as «the lowest level» of narrative.

    Actor + a plate of a soup = a hero is hungry and admire about food (plate of soup);
    Actor + child in coffin = a hero is sadden by child death;
    Actor + young woman laying on the sofa = a hero thinks about woman.

We can say that so called dialogical form of communication also exists in motion meaning, film editing, movie, as well as in all art, and it operates on the basis of Lotman’s semiotic, polyglottical communication model, which expresses the sense of communication act in art, namely a creation of new meaning at artwork perception.

Jakobson’s communication model, which Lotman did not deny at artistic text perception, but considered it as missing to express an art sense, is also present in Kuleshov effect. Jakobson’s model, as the first function of Lotman, is observed at spread of external factors of filming object like external features of actor’s face, of laying woman, of the plate with soup, of the coffin with a child, etc. External factors of objects itself are not changed at montage and information on them is stably contained in frames.

In conclusion, Yuri Lotman adhering to his idea that "there is history behind communication", also proposed to separate the folklore and contemporary art. He drew attention to the significantly different attitude of the audience to the text or message in these types of art.

In non-folklore art, there is a strict difference between the author and the audience. The speaker takes the receiver and leads by providing certain information. In case if the receiver makes any contributions, it most often distorts and changes the main idea that the author or speaker wanted to convey.

As for the folklore genre, it just provokes the receiver or listener to act, interfere, help, etc. Lotman noted that folklore art could be successfully used in the creation of various kinds of performances.

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