Theory of Communicative Responsibility

Dr. Aune (1998)
His PPT on the subject

Theory builds off of Grice's theory of Conversational Implicature, which asks how implicit / explicit do we need to be in a conversation?

Dr. Aune is interested in who assumes the role of communicative responsibility and how that role is assumed.  We can have a low level, high level, or equal level of communicative responsibility.

The goal of communication is to create an isomorphic meme (meaning) state.  (see his PPT on this)  If this is the goal, then we need to look at this theory to figure out the information flow.

For example:  Person A wants directions to Person B's house.  (Asymmetric CR)

  Person A                        Person B
(high level        ------>     (low level of   
of communicative     info.       communicative
responsibility)      flow        responsibility)

Locus of meaning:  Person A (holds the information required for shared meaning)

In this example, however, when discussing the features of the town there may be a common ground in their knowledge of the town, such as discussing where to turn a corner.  Since meaning resides in both there is symmetric CR (equal level of CR)

Overall, Person A has a moderately higher level of CR.  Had Person B been from out of town, then Person A would have had a much higher level of CR than if Person B was local.


We are careful at negotiating the appropriate level of CR.  If we go too low- we might appear to be hiding something, but if we go to high, then we look as if we're patronizing the person we're talking to.