Re: [xmca] Beyond Alterity/Intersubjectivity

From: bb (
Date: Thu Aug 24 2006 - 18:08:33 PDT


I dislike doing this -- but I'm going to be away from the net most likely until sunday pm, so i cannot respond both meaninfully and timely. I've saved your post to take with me to reflect on when time allows in the next 3 days. Hopefully this will result in something meaningful, and I'm sure others could jump in at any time. But, in short, I honestly think we need to read much more than ISFG to get a picture of how Halliday can relate to LSV.


 -------------- Original message ----------------------
From: "Kellogg" <>
> Thanks for taking time off from paid work to reply, and also to scan the
> relevant passages. Let me see if I can rephrase my objections to the passage and
> picture on p. 28 a little more clearly.
> As Halliday says, we are trying to look at the concept of instantiation from two
> points of view at the same time. What he doesn't say is that the two points of
> view are in some way incommensurable. As I see it, there are three reasons for
> this incommensurability.
> a) First of all, the biomechanical world of the context of situation is
> incommensurable with the semiotic world of the context of culture. One is made
> of flesh and blood and matter and can be measured in terms of mass and volume
> rather than informational bytes. The other is made of concepts and abstract
> relationships. Contrariwise, the context of culture is a semiotic thing; made of
> informational bytes and not matter. How can one by an instantiation of the
> other?
> b) Secondly, the potential world is not commensurable with the actual one. In
> fact, Korea's climate is not made up of the POTENTIAL weathers which might have
> occurred in Korea over a given historical epoch; it is composed of the ACTUAL
> weathers observed over that time. The misleading word "potential" really
> transports us rather suddenly back to the context of situation and the text;
> from the point of view of the context of situation and the text, the language
> system consists of potential selections rather than actual selections from the
> grammar over a given historical period, but from the point of view of the
> context of culture, the potential system really is reducible to the actual
> choices that the speakers of a language make (this is always in flux, because of
> the creativity of the system, but that creativity is situational; it is
> individuals who create and innovate with language and not the system itself).
> Halliday writes, as you quote, "A text (...) is an instance of an underlying
> system, and has no meaningful existence except as such." But this is actually
> not so: a text's biomechanical appearance (the font used, the medium on which it
> is enscribed, the intonation with which it is articulated) has nothing to do
> with the underlying system; and yet it is indelibly part of the meaning. It is
> much truer to say that the underlying system has no meaningful existence except
> as it is embodied in actual utterances. There's Bakhtin for you!
> c) The context of culture and the context of situation are incommensurable
> because in a very important sense the relationship is not one of instantiation
> but of causation. It is simply not true to say that "weather" is caused by
> "climate" or that "climate" is caused by "weather". However, we know from
> Vygotsky that ontogenetic development in a context of culture is, at least in a
> dialectically mediated sense, caused by (some forms of) microgenetic learning.
> Looking at matters from the point of view of cultural reproduction, we can say
> that ontogenetic development is in some sense caused by phylogenetic
> development.
> But Vygotsky would have utterly denied that this relation of causation means
> that there is the kind of parallelism that Halliday suggests between cultures
> and situations; he rejected Haeckl and would never have accepted that
> ontogenesis recapitulates microgenesis; on the contrary, that one pre-supposes
> the other means that they other must be different from the first.
> I guess at bottom I think Vygotsky and Halliday are incommensurable paradigms.
> Vygotsky is not simply monist; he is materialist. Halliday, on the other hand,
> sees language as being a material, causative, basic factor of human existence
> rather than a mediational tool.
> I think this is reflected in the schematicism of the diagram on p. 28. Yes, he
> gives us a very good sense that the historical-cultural context is both linked
> and distinct in relation to the biomecanical one. But he cannot explain how one
> develops out of the other, and this is what is hidden by the word
> "instantiation".
> David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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