Basics of Verbal Communication

hand signs image by Albert Lozano from

Verbal communication occurs whenever people speak to each other or convey messages with words. Verbal communication is essential for most productive forms of communication.

Communications technology like social media applications, e-mail and text messages effectively reduce our need for spoken verbal communication in some situations. The Wireless Association reported a twentyfold increase in the number of text messages sent in the United States from 2005 to 2009, and telephone cell phone calls dropped from three minutes to a minute and forty five seconds during the same time. Spoken communication and text messages both incorporate the basic elements of verbal communication, which include meaning, language and speech.


Meaning is an internal component of language that people convey with words. Words are external components of language, but word meanings change over time. Denotative meaning is explicit, and connotative meaning is implicit. Concrete meaning constitutes actual things or instances, and abstract meaning expresses qualities that are separate from specific objects or instances. For example, denotative meaning occurs when a person uses the word "nice" to refer to something nice. Connotative meaning occurs when a person uses the word "sick" or "cool" to refer to things that are impressive. Concrete meaning occurs when a person uses the word medication to refer to pills or other substance-based medical treatment, and abstract meaning occurs with words like "medical" or "psychology".


Language is an internal component of verbal communication, because language is not observable. Language is a symbolic system that people use to generate meaning and define reality. The symbols of language are somewhat arbitrary, because they have little or no connection with the natural world. Convention and implicit social agreements establish the symbols of language. The rules that govern language allow a person to understand a sentence even though he may not have heard that particular sentence before. Language forms comprehensive messages by arranging meaning according to syntactical guidelines. Syntactical guidelines govern the grammatical arrangement of words and meaning.


Speech is either spoken or written and uses words to convey meaning according to linguistic rules. Speech is an external component of verbal communication, because speech modifies the physical environment that exists outside of a person. Speech is the physical manifestation of meaning and language that occurs in the form of words, parts of words or groups of words. Speech is a symbolic or linguistic system that commonly occurs with sound, but sound is not necessary for speech. Speech that occurs with sound is evanescent, because people process and comprehend speech sounds while experiencing speech in real time. People create spontaneous speech with sound by simultaneously conceptualising information and formulating linguistic messages. Written speech can provide an enduring record of information that does not require real-time processing or comprehension.