chapter  5
30 Pages

Codification: Message of Best Fit

The basic reason messages are coded is to make communicative intentions recognizable (Grice, 1975; Sperber & Wilson, 1986). This means that codification is not limited to linguistie messages but extends to a code matrix (Muma, 1975a) whereby linguistie, prosodie, pragmatic, gestural, and other coding devices may be used to convey communicative intent. Codification itself is a structural product of underlying mental capacities whereby decisions are made regarding what and how a message should be coded in the context of what is known or expected. Because codification occurs for the pur pose of making communicative intent recognizable and in a social currency-such as language conventions-it is necessary to appreciate that not just any message should be coded in a particular context; a message needs to be a message of best fit for the competing parameters (Muma, 1975a). Brown (l973b) likened the process of coding a message of best fit in the coin-of-the-realm of social commerce to working a jigsaw puzzle: "A sentence weil adapted to its function is, like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, just the right size and shape to fit the opening left for it by local conditions and community understandings" (p. 68). That is to say, in order for a message to work as intended, it is necessary for an individual to have sufficient knowledge of the world, language, and audience to make appropriate decisions about the informative nature of a message in a particular context. In so doing, there are many risks of producing messages that may not fit encoder-decoder expectations, thereby creating an unintended communicative outcome. Thus, both participants may become active in negotiating appropriate messages. The communicative challenge, then, is to code messages of best fit for the communicative demands of particuIar contexts in order to recognize communieative intents.