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[xmca] Grunting and Grabbing
Some time ago somebody asked me, off list, why I thought that Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech is MICROGENETIC rather than ONTOGENETIC, and why I thought it turned the developmental process of affective disposition to speak, inner speech, word meanings, external speech on its head and proceeded from "inside out" rather than "outside in" (something I claimed in my review of Thinking and Speech, p. 92).
At the time I said it was said quite clearly at the beginning of Chapter Seven, but I couldn't remember exactly where. Last night I sat down with the Minick version of the chapter and to my horror I couldn't find it anywhere. Here's the problem, on p. 249:
"...(W)e must now analyze not the development of meanings and their structure but the process through which meanings function in the living process of verbal thinking. If we succeed in this, we will have shown that with each stage in development there exists not only a specific structure of verbal meaning, but a special relationship between thinking and speech that defines this structure (sic). Functional problems are resolved most easiyl when we are studying the higher, developed forms of some activity, where the whole complexity of the functional structure appears in a well-articulated, mature form. Therefore, we will consider issues of development only briefly (sic), turning then to the study of the relationships of thought to word int he development of consciousness (sic)."
The last sentence makes no sense to me. Here's the Russian:
"Поэтому оставим на некоторое время в стороне вопросы развития и
обратимся к изучению отношений мысли и слова в развитом сознании."
I gather this means something like, "Therefore we will put issues of development to one side for a moment and turn to the study of the relationship of thought to word in a developed (i.e. a mature--DK) consciousness."
In some ways the SECOND sentence is even more puzzling. Here's the Russian:
"Если мы сумеем это сделать, мы тем самым сумеем показать, что на каждой ступени развития существует не только своя особенная структура словесного значения, но также определяемое этой структурой свое особое отношение между мышлением и речью."
And this I gather means something like: "If we know how to do this, we will also know how to show that at each step of development there is not only a special structure of verbal meaning but also, DETERMINED BY THIS STRUCTURE (my emphasis, DK), a special relationship between thinking and speech."
There you have it. For Minick's Vygotsky, the relationship defines the structure ("a special relationship between thinking and speech that defines this structure") while for Seve's, and Meccaci's Vygotsky it's precisely the other way around, the structure defines the relationships between thinking and speech that are possible.
I think that a vulgar "Marxist" interpretation would support Minick: after all, man's being determines his consciousness, and it is the relations of production which determine the structures of production. But I also think that this ignores precisely what Minick leaves out at the end of the paragraph, which is precisely what Vygotsky is doing in this chapter which is different from previous chapters.
Vygotsky is leaving aside for the moment how the structure developed, where the relations of thinking and speech were indeed decisive and instead discussing how the structure functions, and here, in fact, it is the structure which determines the possible relations of thinking to speech rather than the other way around.
In the ONTOGENETIC development of grunting and grabbing, it is indeed the relationships between indicative meaning and the indicated objects which determines the resultant structure of grunting and grabbing. But in the MICROGENETIC unfolding of an actual act of grunting and grabbing, it's just the other way around; when I lack the structure vocabulary and grammar then I can only grunt and grab.
Seoul National University of Education
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