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Re: [xmca] DA-L2: II -- Indicators of Conscious Control of Language

Well, I don't know Mike. But it seems to me that the concepts of "conscious awareness" [Russian: /osoznanie/] and self-consciousness are inter-related. Both come in degrees surely. So it is worth looking at the issue of control over the use of speech in terms of the development of self-consciousness during this period.

Vygotsky says that in this period "The child enters into the situation and his behaviour is wholly determined by the situation." This is the stage of emergence of the I from the stage of Ur-wir. As I understand it, the child at this stage does not generalise, but it seems to me that they are very sensitive to the response of adults. The child goes to say "Yukky" and gets a bad feeling, a feeling of anticipated humiliation, and falls silent, till he hits on another way forward. I don't think this is the kind of "conscious awareness" that the child will achieve in a year or two. The child's self-consciousness is just emerging, and is manifested in the reflected gaze of the adults when he gets into position, so to speak, to repeat the action which earlier produced a negative feeling.

Just groping ...


mike cole wrote:
I am still trying to digest the second language-scientific concept
discussion but have a question about
how one know's that a child is acquiring conscious control of language
output. If I understand correctly,
conscious control appears as a part of the 5-7 year shift in psychological
function conceived of by LSV, Piaget, Freud, and other developmentalists in
various ways .

How do I interpret this:

Sasha is about 29 months of age. He is walking and talking, but he has
difficulty with some sound combinations. L's at the beginning of words is
one such. So, he pronounces lucky as yukky. OK.

Sasha's parents take him to visit friends who have a dog that Sasha really
likes. His name is Lucky. For a couple of months, Sasha happily calls out
for "Yuckky" who obligingly turns up. The older folks around laugh at the
error. Sasha is oblivious. After all, his buddy came to play!! But a few
months later, arriving at the dog's house, Sasha says, "Where is.......
where is ...... where is John's dog?" People just stare and the moment

My interpretation is that Sasha has learned that in this case, there is
something about calling the dog Yukkie that evokes laughter and that he is
the subject of the laughter. He may have learned that dirty stuff is
referred to as yukky. Either way, he wants to avoid making a mistake that
will result in him being laughed at. He "catches himself in the act" of
saying Yukky and finds a grammatically and semantically acceptable

How ought I to interpret this incident? Did he deliberately change what he
was saying?. If so, how could this be possible at such a young age? If not,
how did he do it?


On Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 5:25 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

On p. 223 of Thinking and Speech (Minick translation) Vygotsky addresses
precisely this problem (that is, the problem of whether word meanings
develop in foreign language learning the same way they do in the learning of
science concepts). Here's what he says:

"Problems arise, however, if we attempt to extend this analogy further. In
learning a foreign language, a system of developed meanings is given from
the outset int he native language. The existing system is a prerequisite for
the development of the new system. In the development of scientific
concepts, on the other hand, the system emerges only with the development of
the scientific concept and it is this new system that transforms the child's
everyday concepts. This difference is more critical than the kinship between
these processes because it identifies what distinguishes the devleopment of
scientific concepts from the development of new forms of speech such as
foreign languages or writing."

This isn't actually the first time Vygotsky's raised this problem, which I
think ultimately stems from the fact that every foreign language is somebody
else's native language. In his remarks on Tolstoy on p. 172 Vygotsky notes
that Tolstoy "is not concerned with the concepts that the child acquires in
learning a system of scientific knowledge, but with words and concepts that
are woven into the same fabric as those that have developed in the child."
(Interestingly, though, many of the literary "Russian" words that Tolstoy is
teaching the kids, e.g. "impression", are really French words in a Russian

There's an even more interesting example of how foreign language learning
is different from scientific concept learning, and in some respects less
conducive to developing a new system, in Poehner and Lantolf's own data.
This example MIGHT seem to refute what I am saying, because it's really a
grammatical example and not a lexical example at all, but I think if we look
at it on the continuum of lexicogrammar (that is, on a continuum of modes of
meaning which emphasize repetition and other modes of meaning that emphasize
variation) we will see that it only EXTENDS my argument rather than refuting

On p. 320 of Poehner and Lantolf, Donna is trying to retell a scene from a
movie. She begins correctly, with the passe compose and then switches to the
imparfait. There is a long analysis of this incorrect "correction" which
focuses on the actions of the mediator.

But there are three things which do NOT figure in the analysis which are
really much more important.

First of all, Donna is uptaking, that is, taking up the last tense she
used, and sticking with it, as we often do in telling a narrative. That's
why she unthinkingly gets it right. If you start off in one tense you tend
to stick with that tense, unless there is some good reason to change it.
This is normal, and it is one reason why deliberate, concept based decisions
often produce INCORRECT decisions as in this case. The language is designed,
nonintentionally and nonvolitionally, but nevertheless designed, by
the everyday narrative activities of native speakers, and it's designed to
NOT be deliberate or intentional or volitional in any way.

Secondly, Donna is uptaking from her own native language. That is why she
THINKINGLY gets it wrong. The problem is that "elle a dit" really resembles,
externally, the English imperfect, that is, "she has said". So, sure enough,
Donna is taking over a meaning which is ready-made from her own language,
and that is the whole source of the problem.

Thirdly, the "mediator" DOES uptake this mistake, but sticks to the the
"therapist" role of simply being an echo chamber. The mediator does not
mediate PRECISELY where this mediation would be useful in a revolutionary
seizure of conscious awareness. Instead of showing Donna that "ella dit" is
only EXTERNALLY similar to "she has said", allowing Donna a metalinguistic
understanding of how the two aspects instantiate the same story in very
different systems. (I think this is probably due to the fact that the
mediator himself/herself is not particularly sure of what s/he is doing--at
least this is suggested by the fact that the transcript actually
mistranslates "il a e/te/" as "has been" in line 5.)

Now, I am not arguing that the concepts of time are different in English
and in French (as Neguerela has done). I guess I don't think that tense or
even aspect is time at all, and therefore I don't think that tense or aspect
is a concept. It seems to me that both tense and aspects are sprawling chain
complexes, formed precisely through narrative use of the language.

Yes, it is possible to conceptualize it. That's what linguists get paid to
do. And that is what the mediator could have (and should have) done. But
that is not what native speakers do for the very simple reason that every
foreign language is also somebody else's everyday language, and as Vygotsky
reminds us, a lot of what adults think may look conceptual but it really

Jim has one part of my argument absolutely right. I am not arguing that
vocabulary learning is learning, and grammar learning is development. That
is obviously not true, and I don't think it would be true even if we could
consistently and coherently specify where vocabulary learning stops and
grammatical development starts.

I am saying that if we plot ontogenetic word learning on a chart, we will
discover that over the years it is relatively linear, and that is why we
have people like Paul Bloom talking about the number of words learned, on
the average, per month, from the age of twenty-four months to the age of
twenty-four years. In contrast, grammar learning obeys WILD U-shaped curves
of development, as any language teacher will tell you (and as Donna actually
demonstrates, albeit microgenetically). And I am saying that there this
difference is not accidental and tells us something very profound about the
difference between learning and development that will ultimately apply to
both grammar and vocabulary.

Yesterday I had to judge a perfeclty dreadful "teaching contest" at our
university. For the most part the "lessons" were set pieces, with none of
the real excitement and interaction of real lessons and consequently no
"development" not even in the narrow microgenetic sense (for one thing, no

But I did notice that every lesson had a particular point where the teacher
asked the nonexistent children to somehow make some sentence of their own,
e.g. "Let's go...blah, blah, blah" or "Can you ...bip bip bip" or "I'm
very..jeom jeom jeom...today". That "X" marks the spot!

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

PS: I would like to agree VERY STRONGLY with Larry's gentle but insistent
implicit criticism of the editors of this issue. All of the studies are
indeed synchronic, and that means that the approach to truly ontogenetic
DEVELOPMENT is only speculative and theoretical.

There's an even worse problem. All of these synchronic studies are really
first world studies: we are EITHER looking at the learning of English in
English speaking countries or we are looking at the learning of foreign
languages...in English speaking countries.

This is the TESOL-USA view of the world, the view from the inner,
Anglophone circle, where monolingualism is strongest and foreign language
learning and teaching is weakest. It conveniently leaves out the VAST
majority of language learners and the most exciting language teaching
frontier in the world today.


 --- On Fri, 12/3/10, James P. Lantolf <jpl7@psu.edu> wrote:

From: James P. Lantolf <jpl7@psu.edu>
Subject: [xmca] DA-L2: II
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Date: Friday, December 3, 2010, 1:32 PM

1.We appreciate Andy's comment that several scholars associated with
Marxian theory have argued that the criterion for truth is found in
practice. However, we don't agree that Marx "never talks about the criterion
of truth." While Marx might not have actually used the exact wording
"criterion of truth" his Second Thesis on Feuerbach does indeed address the
issue rather directly. In the words of Sanchez Vasquez (1977, p. 120)
"Thesis II is significant because it reveals a new dimension of the role of
practice in knowledge; it provides not only the object of knowledge, but
also the criterion of its truth." Sanchez goes on to expand on this point in
greater detail.
2.Clarification of "natural" in our discussion of Education. Perhaps the
way we phrased things is the reason for Mike's concern and justifiably so.
We were certainly not saying that cultural concepts are acquired through a
natural/biological process (e.g., we in no way buy into Chomsky's view of
language acquisition as the mere triggering of pre-specified knowledge. In
fact, in Lantolf and Thorne, 2006, we support Tomasello's usage-based
approach to acquisition, including non-instructed adult language
acquisition). We were trying to reflect Vygotsky's position that culture,
whether everyday or formal education, empowers humans to gain control over
processes that are part of our natural biological endowment. Here is a nice
quote from A. N. Leontiev that reflects our orientation with specific
reference to language: "language is the objective product of the activity of
previous generations. In the process of development, the child appropriates
 This means that in the child specifically human abilities and functions
are formed: the ability to speak and to understand, the functions of hearing
and articulating spoken language. Naturally, these abilities and functions
are not innate; rather they emerge in ontogenesis. What makes them emerge?
Above all, the existence of language in the environment. With regard to the
biological characteristics [e.g., human auditory apparatus, human vocal
apparatus] inherited by the child, they constitute only the necessary
conditions to enable the formation of these abilities and functions."
(Principles of Mental Development and the Problem of Mental Retardation.
3.With regard to learning L2s, we don't agree with David that learning of
vocabulary is a linear process. It isn't simply learning new labels for
concepts we already have in our first language (we aren't saying that David
makes this claim, but many in the L2 literature have made this assumption,
although, to be sure, things are beginning to change). Learning that the
Spanish word for mother is madre, as Vygotsky argued, is the beginning not
the end of the process. There is a rich set of cultural entailments that one
must appropriate to fully know the Spanish word and these are radically
different from Anglo-American concept of mother. On this topic see the 1997
dissertation by Howard Grabois (1997). Love and power. Word associations,
lexical organization and second language acquisition.
4.Gaining control over the feature of aspect in a language such as French
or Spanish is indeed all about development. By control we mean the ability
to consciously understand the concept of aspect and the ability to deploy
that concept as a semiotic tool to make and convey the kinds of meanings one
wants to make and convey in specific communicative circumstances. This does
not mean using the concept in precisely the way native speakers do. It means
the ability to use the concept in perhaps innovative ways. Indeed, the
average native speaker (i.e., one who has not study language formally in
school) do not have conscious and sophisticated understanding of the
conceptual features (grammatical, lexical, pragmatic, discursive) of their
language. Yanez-Prieto (2008) On literature and the secret art of invisible
words : Teaching literature through language (Ph.D. dissertation), among
other things, documents how L2 learners gain control over Spanish verbal
 aspect and use it to create communicatively powerful texts. One student,
for instance, relates a story about her mother's illness using imperfective
and perfective in what would otherwise seem to be a « non-native » manner.
Normally, imperfective is used to set background information (set the stage)
for a story and perfective is used to relate the major events of the story.
The student intentionally used the imperfective to relate the major events
of the story as a way of drawing the reader into the action as if it were
unfolding before one's eyes. It seems to us that this type of control of a
key temporal concept shows genuine development.
5.The examples that David provides deal with children learning an L2, this
may or may not be a different process from adults learning an L2. Indeed, a
recent book by one of the leading neurolinguists working on bilingual
acquisition, Michel Paradis in his (2009) book (Declarative and Procedural
Determinants of Second Languages) provides empirical evidence to support the
position we are arguing for regarding learning languages in educational
settings. In a nutshell, he proposes that adult language learning rarely
entails the same kind of implicit, non-conscious learning that occurs in the
case of L1 and possibly L2 learning in childhood. Instead, it involves
conscious and intentional learning of explicit knowledge, which can never
convert to implicit knowledge. This knowledge can, however, be used in an
accelerated way in oral and written communicative activities. We integrate
Paradis's model with Vygotsky's approach to formal education in our new book
 instructed second language learning.
6.We have always interpreted "cultural" in sociocultural as a historical
formation. It plays a major role in our approach to language education,
since for one thing we have to confront the language educational history of
our students, who, by the time they enter university language courses, have,
in most cases, already internalized knowledge of a particular language that
is by and large inappropriate, incomplete and in many cases wrong. To even
begin the educational process, we have to first bring out the history and
then get the students to confront it and recognize that in most cases it is

Jim & Matt

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*Andy Blunden*
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