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DANCE, Frank E. X.

In Brooklyn, New York, in the nineteen thirties and nineteen forties rarely did an elementary, high school or even college age young person from a middle income English speaking family have the opportunity to go abroad. All countries outside of the continental United States, with the exception of Canada, were culturally distant, were "foreign." In my instance, nations outside of Western Europe such as Russia, were not only foreign, they were exotic. Growing up I knew almost nothing of Russia. The political conflation of Russia with communism was a commonplace in my youthful America and that conflation carried a heavy negative burden. It was not until I went to college and was given a very slight introduction to Russian literature that I developed the slightest appreciation of the vast and rich offerings of that country. As an undergraduate I carried a double major in speech and in Thomistic philosophy. The state of the discipline in my undergraduate years mandated a number of courses dealing with the anatomy and physiology of speech as such material related to speech pathology. These courses provided a conceptual background for my reactions to my later exposure to the work of Soviet/Russian scholars.

The United States, in the early nineteen fifties, still maintained a selective service system, the "draft." This meant that mandatory military service was required of men within a certain age grouping. In 1953 I had just completed my master's degree in speech at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and had enrolled to begin my doctoral studies at Northwestern when one late fall afternoon my mother telephoned from Brooklyn to tell me that my draft notice, calling me to service in the armed forces, had arrived at my Brooklyn address. Rather than being drafted and given no choice as to my military occupation specialty I chose to enlist in a branch of the U.S. Army that would afford me the opportunity to learn another language. Since I needed a foreign language for my doctoral requirements it seemed a good decision at the time. Unfortunately rather than learning German, or French, or Russian, any of which would have served nicely in completing my foreign language requirement, I was selected to be in the first group to study Vietnamese (which, at that time, was not one of the languages I could use to fulfill the doctoral requirement).

During my military service (1954-1957) I was introduced to the writings of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. I became entranced with Pavlov's work. I read everything I could of Pavlov that had been translated into English. I respected Pavlov's scholarship and I liked what I came to know of Pavlov the person as reflected in available biographies of the man. I even began to study the Russian language, finished an introductory class, but didn't pursue that effort due to time constraints. Pavlov's schema of the three signal systems seemed to me to be closely aligned with my speech scholarship and especially resonated with the materials on anatomy and physiology of the speech mechanism [4, 9]. It was about this time that I was introduced to the work of Alexander Romanovich Luria and began to read and study his writings in English translation. Luria's studies provided much encouragement in the development of the hypotheses concerning the functions of spoken language [7, 11, 12]. I also did a good deal of collateral reading in the areas of Soviet studies in psychology, cybernetics, and education (at that time called "pedagogy" in the Soviet literature). Other interesting publications dealt with the Soviet linguistic controversy and included at least one essay by Josif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (Stalin), who considered himself a linguistics scholar.

Having completed my military tour of duty (1957) I returned to graduate school at Northwestern and completed my Ph.D. in 1959. During my graduate study years the term "communication" was not in as general usage within this discipline as it is today. "Communication theory" was most often used within the field of electrical engineering and when infrequently used in the discipline of speech or of speech-communication (the Speech Association of America and the Speech Communication Association were the direct forerunners of today's National Communication Association) usually referred to those who espoused experimental methodologies. The book Human Communication Theory: Original Essays was among the earliest , if not indeed the first publication, using the term "human communication theory" in a manner close to that in use today [7].

My interest in Soviet/Russian studies, as they bear upon my subject matter of spoken language, endured. I subscribed to the Soviet psychology journal Voprosy Psikhologii, which although published in Russian, contained English abstracts at the end of the articles. If the abstract suggested material of especial interest I would have the relevant article translated. It was at this time that I was appointed editor of the "Research Reports" section of the Central States Speech Journal, a position I held from 1961 until 1969 [1]. During my tenure as "Research Reports" editor I would, on occasion, include in my section materials drawn from my readings in Voprosy Psikhologii and in other Soviet/Russian sources. In 1962 Hanfmann and Vakar published their translation of Lev Semenovich Vygotsky's Myschlenie I Rech' which they translated as Thought and Language rather than as thinking and speech. (1972) It took two more translations of the work until it was more accurately translated by Norris Minick in 1987 [18, 19]. Vygotsky has been the source of a great deal of study and research in the United States, His discussion of inner speech undergirds much of my own treatment of internal and external spoken language, his discussion of the pre-conceptual roots of speech and of the pre speech roots of conceptualization offers richmaterials to the student of spoken language and of human communication theory, his use of the Vygotsky blocks to study concept formation is classic.

In 1964 I gave a presentation at the national convention of the Speech Association of America that had as its goal the introduction of Pavlov's work as a relevant source for building human communication theory. [4] This was the first of a number of addresses and publications dealing with Soviet/Russian materials as they bear on human communication theory. These materials became so much a part of my own scholarly efforts at theory building that they appear in one or another form in many of my publications [E.g.,10,12,13] the materials also provided the impetus for a number of dissertations I have had the pleasure of directing. [14, 16, 20] Soviet/Russian resources have continued to inform many of my undergraduate and graduate courses, especially my two part course in The Psychology of Spoken Language.

My use of and interest in the contributions of Russian and former Soviet bloc scholars to building human communication theory continues to the present day. Now there are others sharing this interest, others who are studying scholars such as Bakhtin whom I have read but have done very little with in terms of integration of his materials into the speech theory of human communication.

I am deeply grateful to those pre twentieth and twentieth century Soviet and Russian scholars whose works have enlightened and enthused me in my efforts to build human communication theory. I believe that scholars such as Sokolov, Pavlov, Vygotsky, Luria and their colleagues and students envisioned and dealt with the very core of what makes human communication human, speech, and its generative embodiment in spoken language.


  1. Dance, Frank E.X. Contributing editor for research, The Central States Speech Journal, 1961 69. As research editor I published materials drawn from Voprosy Psikhologii that bore on human communication theory . E.G. The Central States Speech Journal, Vol XVI No. 4, November 1965, pp 295-298, "Some features of the formation of sound pitch differentiation in early age"
  2. "Communication Theorists and International Communication," J. of Communication, Vol.XIV, No.1, (March, 1964)
  3. "Speech Communication in the Soviet Union: The Phylogenesis of Speech According to Frederick Engels, " The Speech Teacher, Vol. XIII, No.2, (March, 1964)
  4. ADDRESS: "Pavlovian Psychophysiology and Communication Theory," SAA Conv., Chicago, IL., Dec. 1964
  5. ADDRESS (invited principal): "Communication Research in the Soviet Union," 1st International Symposium on Communication Theory and Research, Excelsior Springs, MO., March 28, 1965
  6. "Law in the Soviet Society," J. of Communication, June, 1966. book review
  7. Human Communication Theory: Original Essays. Editor. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1967
  8. "Speech Communication Research in the Soviet Union," Communication Theory and Research. Ed. by Lee Thayer. Springfield, Ill.: C.C. Thomas Pub. 1967. Pp.273 288
  9. "Speech Communication Theory and Pavlov's Second Signal System," J. of Communication, Vol. XVII, No.1, (March, 1967), 13 24
  10. Speech Communication: Concepts and Behaviors. With C.E. Larson. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1972
  11. The Functions of Human Communication: A Theoretical Approach. With C. E. Larson. NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1976
  12. Human Communication Theory: Comparative Essays. Editor. NY: Harper and Row, 1982
  13. with Carol C. Zak-Dance, Ph.D. Speaking Your Mind: Private thinking and public speaking. Kendall/Hunt Publishing, (DuBuque, Iowa) 1994. Second edition. 1996
  14. 1972, Hamilton, L., "The development of higher mental processes through communication: a formulative study," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, the University of Denver.
  15. Sokolov, A.N. Inner Speech and Thought. Translated by Geprge T. Onischenko. Translation edited by Donald B. Lindsley. Plenum Press (NY and London). 1972. Original Russian edition published in 1968. ISBN 0-306-30529-1
  16. 1980, Vocate, D.," Higher mental processes and spoken language: implications of the work of A.R. Luria.", unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, the University of Denver.
  17. Vygotsky, L.S. Thought and Language. Translated by Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar. The M.I.T. Press (Cambridge, MA).1962. LOC 61-15594
  18. Thought and Language. Newly revised and edited by Alex Kozulin. The MIT Press (Cambridge, MA) 1986. In a note on page lvii the translator alludes to his awareness of the mistranslation in the title but states that he chooses the stay with the title of the Hanfmann and Vakar (1962) translation
  19. "Thinking and Speech," in Problems of General Psychology, The Collected Works of L.S. Vygotsky. Translated by Norris Minick. Edited by Robert W. Rieber and A.S. Carton. Plenum Press (NY and London). 1987. ISBN 0-306-42441-X
  20. 1993, Whelan, Thomas. "The contributions of L.S. Vygotsky to human communication theory," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, the University of Denver

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    About author:

    Frank E.X. Dance, Ph.D.
    John Evans Professor of Human Communicaiton Studies
    University of Denver
    Denver, Colorado, USA


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