Re: [xmca] Beyond Alterity/Intersubjectivity

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Sat Aug 26 2006 - 04:08:15 PDT

Hi Bill, David, Steve et. al.,

Sorry that I was an impetus to this discussion and then disappeared
myself. I'm just back from the wilderness - I agree with Bill that
ISFG is probably not the most fruitful place to look for linkages to
Halliday and LSV - David, have you read the papers on the discussion
site of xmca that we used for the discussion last year? Also the
actual discussions, where people very close to the development of
Halliday's theories (especially Hasan) created insightful dialogue
with this commiunity. If you do have the time to look at the
readings, it would also be interesting to find any intersections of
LSV, Hallidayan *theory* and Hopper's emergent grammar. The Lantolf
and Thorne papers pull in emergent grammar and juxtapose some of
Tomasello's work with it, which makes for more interesting
discussions of "commensurability", a notion I find slippery in
itself! Notably, Gordon Wells (who argued for commensurability
between MAKH and LSV, an argument that the SFL crowd in Australia did
not reject) has also been looking at Tomasello's work recently, as he
mentioned during the discussion last year. He has an in-press paper
that I can't for the minute locate.

And there's always Halliday's "Language as Social Semiotic" on top of
"Learning how to Mean".



On 25/08/2006, at 8:08 AM, bb wrote:

> David,
> 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.
> bb
> -------------- 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
> From: "Kellogg" <>
> Date: 25 August 2006 7:06:05 AM
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Beyond Alterity/Intersubjectivity
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