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Re: [xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 45, Issue 53

Re your last paragraph, does it then mean that the "word" is a germ cell
model, or am I confusing two concepts from different origins?

Perhaps people would be interested in reading the explanation about "word"
you gave me in a private conversation.


2009/2/19 David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>

> Dear Professor Veresov:
> My country, South Korea, is a rather strange place. Professors tend to
> dress like businessmen here (in blue suits, sometimes grey, with pinstriped
> shirts and expensive neckties, gold watches are not unheard of).
> But we don't actually write business letters; even the class timetables I
> get from the dean generally begin with polite remarks about my health,
> cautionary words about the weather, or reminiscences about the last dinner
> we had together.
> These preambles are not pointless, and they are not simply polite. They are
> a way of establishing who is saying what to whom; a recognition that
> everything has to be interpersonally contextualized to have any meaning at
> all.
> My point was that I knew your work, and that I knew you had a great deal to
> contribute to the debate on periodization, but that I also knew that you
> were chiefly concerned with periods OTHER than the period from 1932-1934.
> This is the main period where Vygotsky talks about a "unit of analysis" and
> analysis into units. And sure enough, as Mike points out, it is a period of
> intense preoccupation with word meaning, particularly with the "tearing
> away" of word meaning from the "phasal" properties of language, by which
> Vygotsky means the phonological properties, the part which Andy calls
> "material" (Thinking and Speech, 1987: 223).
> Thinking and Speech was called a monograph by Luria (on p. 359), despite
> the double title and despite the fact that its composition spans over half
> of Vygotsky's whole career. I think Luria is right; it IS a monograph; the
> topic of Vygotsky's monograph is neither "thinking" nor "speech" but rather
> the conjunction "and" that links them. For Vygotsky, that "and" is
> consciousness, and the "microcosm" of that consciousness is the
> meaning-laden word.
> I think the process of differentiating the purely sensory aspects of words
> from their ideality is why self-directed speech is so important (Chapter
> Two), that is why the creation of interfunctional relations is actually more
> important than the independent development of the functions
> themselves (Chapter Three), that is why the merging of preverbal thinking
> and pre-intellectual speaking can present a model for the development of
> every higher mental function (Chapter Four), that is why the replacement of
> "visual-concrete images" by "abstract relations" is the foundation of
> conceptual thinking (Chapter Five); that is why foreign language learning
> and concept formation are the archetypes that Vygotsky has in mind for
> the zone of proximal development (Chapter Six) and it is why thinking is
> only realized in the word (Chapter Seven).
> As you can see, I think that the idea that word meaning is the irreducible
> unit of consciousness permeates every single chapter of the book which was,
> intellectually, Vygotsky's last will and testament, even though (for that
> very reason) it cannot be considered "typical" or "characteristic" of his
> work (merely its culmination).
> You asked me for a text, and like Mike I felt rather overwhelmed, because
> so many references seemed to cry out. How to choose? Where to begin? And
> what to cut?
> What I did was to cite the last THREE paragraphs of Thinking and Speech. Of
> course, like a Korean academic letter, these paragraphs have to be
> contextualized; we have to know who is saying what to whom.
> The last three paragraphs have to be read as the culimination of a book,
> and even of a life, and the last six words have to  In the same way, the
> last six words have to be read as the culmination of those paragraphs;
> we cannot simply cut them into an epigraph without making them epigrammatic
> and consequently banal.
> But (and this was the point of my pointless preamble) you are in a better
> position to recontextualize the text than almost anyone else. I assumed
> (from your name, and also from your remarkable erudition) that you read
> Russian. So I felt reasonably confident that you could place this:
> "Осмысленное слово есть микрокосм человеческого сознания."
> It is found on p. 347 of the Labirint edition (2005), which is a reprint of
> the 1934 edition that Vygotsky actually supervised. In English, it means
> that the meaning-laden word is a microcosm of human consciousness. I think
> that the word "microcosm" means, here, an irreducible, but fully complete,
> unit.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> (Associate Professor)
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