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Re: [xmca] Visual Thinking?
Thanks, Ana--a very useful example, and not just for cooking. Korean does treat the tomato as a fruit, and we do find tomatoes, not only in fruit salads but even on top of frosted birthday cakes in "Western" bakeries. (In China, the tomato is usually served with sugar, like you might serve a rather acidic batch of strawberry or a sour pomegranate, even when you cook it with scrambled eggs).
In Korean, a peanut is an "earth bean" rather than a kind of nut. Similarly, a sweet potato has nothing whatsoever to do with a potato. Pork is the kind of fish-flesh that one gets off a pig, instead of fish being the kind of meat you get from sea-animals.
We have an umbrella term, "yeolmae", which means "fruits" AND "seeds" in a rather explanded, diffuse, even Biblical sense (the fruits of your labor, the seed of your loins). Tomatoes are "yeolmae" but so are nuts and berries.
One of my grad students taught a kind of science-English hybrid lesson where children had to sort "yeolmae" into nuts and berries (a distinction which doesn't exist in Korean) and explain the STRUCTURAL difference (that is, nuts are hard on the outside and edible on the inside while with berries it's the other way around). Some of the kids actually explained this difference (correctly) as a FUNCTIONAL and even a GENETIC difference in propagation strategies, which is something we did not anticipate
I often wonder if American kids, given the squeamishness about Darwinism that they have inherited from Bush and his "education" marabouts, could have done the same thing. (Korean kids coming from the USA, called "returnees", are often treated as learning disabled here and given special remedial courses, though unfortunately the special schools set up for them in the private sector have now become magnets for English learning and actually attract kids who have never been abroad.)
I think that American kids probably MIGHT have been able to make the connection between structure and function and even genetic history except that the lesson really depends on meta-linguistic consciousness, something that American kids are, in my experience, also rather poor in for reasons that have nothing to do with Bush and everything to do with monolingualism .
And that brings me back to the diffuse complex. One of our translation group tried to understand the ability of the child to create a diffuse complex of "color" that included BOTH yellow AND black (from the series yellow, green, blue, black) as a matter of chaining together pre-existing color categories.
That seems adultomorphic to me. The progression of the child's thought is not from pre-existing color categories to a kind of expanded multi-color category, but rather from UNDIFFERENTIATED gestalten to more differentiated ones.
The diffuse concept is diffuse because it has not yet been pared down by interaction with adult word meanings; it is rather like the kind of crude color concepts we find in English (which uses the single word "red" for a wide variety of colors that have different names in Korean) or ancient Chinese (which uses a single character, "qing" for both blue and green).
So the direction of the development of the complex is exactly what we would expect from a holistic rather than a synthetic theory (thanks, eric!). It's not from simple, pure categories to complicated ones, but rather from complex but undifferentiated gestalten to simple, pure elements. This might even have biological origins somewhere (because of course the human eye has only three different color receptors in the retina).
When the child goes from yellow to green to blue to black, the child is not going from a pure yellow to a "yellow + green" to a "yellow + green + blue" to a "yellow + green + blue + black". Instead, he child has an undifferentiated set of concrete objects in mind at each stage, and that complex is at first "yellowgreen" (that is a composite "family" of which yellow and green are equal members, or perhaps a better analogy would be a gang in which yellow and green are both friends with equal rights) then "yellowgreenblue" and then "yellowgreenblueblack".
The same thing is true of shapes, though here the biological substratum is not so obvious. When the child goes from triangle to trapezoid to square to circle, the child is NOT going from the set of all triangles to the set of all triangles merged with the set of all trapezoids, etc. The child has in mind a group of specific (not all but some) objects we can call "triangulazoids", both of which are "big down there and little up here". That group then includes objects that have pointy things (triangulazoidalaterals).
The idea (a concept) that a circle is a polygon with infinitely many infinitely small sides is still in the child's ontogenetic future. For this reason a child will probably choose a SEMI-circle (which has pointy bits) before the child will choose a circle.
Two points about this, and then I really will shut up:
a) Children do not think that complexes are concepts, for the simple reason that they do not know what a concept is yet. Even American children of a certain age (and bilinguals of any age) would be willing to eat cherry tomatoes on birthday cake frosting (though you might try this with a monolingual American adolescent and tell me what happens).
b) Adults do not think that everyday complexive uses of "fruit" are scientific concepts either, although they know perfectly well what concepts are. Vygotsky says that so-called "primitives", like the Borora, do NOT imagine that they will turn into parrots when they die (p. 151 of Thinking and Speech).
The parrots and the Borora are one and the same only in the same sense that Vygotsky is a descendant of the tribe of Abraham. No matter how long he waits, Lev Semyonovich will not turn into the patriarch.
Seoul National University of Education
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