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By Stephen W Littlejohn

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In contrast to scholars in related disciplines who tend to consider communication a secondary process for transmitting information about the world, communication scholars see communication as the organizing principle of human social life: Communication constructs the social world rather than simply providing the means for describing that world. Of course, theories of communication are not distinctive to the Western tradition and the United States. Virtually every culture has been concerned with the nature and functions of communication, and communication scholars are beginning to integrate theories from a variety of countries and cultures.

Bhartfhari and Śankara analyze language and speech, providing a foundation for Hindu communication theory. The concept of rasa is developed in the writings of Bharata and Abhinavagupta in India. The role of African civilizations in human life, communication, rhetoric, and world history is established. •• Egyptian and Nubian thought emerge. •• Imhotep, Ptahhotep, Kagemni, Merikare, and Duauf establish a classical set of philosophies that contribute to Afrocentric ideas about communication. 1600 to 1700 The age of rationalism and the Enlightenment begin, as major issues in epistemology are set by philosophers of this period.

At first, communication scholars turned to existing disciplines for theories—not surprising since virtually every discipline concerned with the human being must study communication to some degree. The recognition of social sciences as legitimate disciplines after World War II gave even more credence to the contributions of psychology and sociology for understanding human communicative behavior. European scholars began to influence communication theory in the United States after World War II as well; heavily influenced by Marxist theories, European scholars from a variety of disciplines have been responsible for the introduction of critical–cultural theories and methods into the study of communication.

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