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[xmca] Miss Nomer
Yeah! If that was an echo, Martin, I'm gonna go bellow some more.
Yesterday I was talking to a Korean fifteen month old about the nature of words. He's got the idea of intonation and stress down pat (and in fact he does a really ripping imitation of his dad's intonation patterns and can clearly distinguish them from his mother's). He's still figuring out the "inner" details of phonology and doesn't really have a clue about the "innards", the lexicogrammar, of language yet.
(I think, actually, that THIS is the sense in which Vygotsky uses "internal" and "external"; it's rather metaphorical, the sonic/phasal properties of language are "external" and the syntactical/semiotic ones are "internal". There really isn't any "body" or "soul" about it. It has to do with the material and the ideal, all right, but the ideal has its origins as a kind of "potential" foreshadowing of the material.)
So anyway, his parents, being proleptic as parents everywhere are, insist that he knows the words "umma" (Mommy) and "appa" (Daddy). And they're right! He DOES apply "umma" to his Mommy and never uses it to Daddy. And he DOES apply "appa" to Daddy and never uses it on Mommy.
But he ALSO uses "umma" with his maternal grandmother. And he uses "appa" with his grandfather. He studied me for a VERY long time, and then decided...you guessed it...that I was "appa" and not "umma". So what we have here is a very primitive and very simple kind of COMPLEX and not simply a syncretic heap.
To be a LITTLE proleptic: Mariane Hedegaard's article uses the "crisis" and the "stage" rather loosely, partly because she is interested in freeing the sketchy developmental theory that Vygotsky outlines in Volume Five from the kind of "train schedule" that it became in the hands of Zaporozhets and Elkonin and returning it to the much more flexible idea of overlapping and even superimposed stages of development we can see at the end of Chapter Five of Thinking and Speech.
I really think THIS, the superimposition of DIFFERENT word meanings, is the key to distinguishing between the "leading activity" and the "characteristic activity" in the development of consciousness. Because the child's mind is ALSO made of semiotic stuff, and the child finds him/herself in a more developed semiotic environment, it's quite possible to find complexive word meanings, even in a fifteen month old kid who is still mastering syncretic images. That doesn't make it characteristic; he hasn't figured out the internal structure yet and he's only grasped the complex as a particular kind of heap. But it does make it leading; applying the word "appa" to a stranger like me is an error with a great future in store for it.
Seoul National University of Education
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