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Re: [xmca] A bit more on Dynamic Assessment and second languagedevelopment


I'm not quite sure I follow your argument when you write:

"'I have said' is a way of talking about a process whose completeness is not specified but a process is held to be relevant with respect to a given time of speaking. As such it is really closer to the imparfait than to the passe compose, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding."

"I have said" is a perfective tense (present perfect), which is why (I think, at least) Halliday talks about as the "past in the present," as you point out. And while there isn't any specification as to when exactly some event took place, it is completed, or at least the speaker is putting a perfective aspect on the relevant event (i.e., depicting it as completed at some point in the past). So it actually doesn't have anything to do with French imperfective aspect (or imperfective in any language as far as I can tell), but to the contrary has everything to do with the passé composé.

This is why:

French has three basic past tenses: a preterit (passé simple), as in (1), a compound past tense (passé composé and pluperfect), as in (2), and an imperfective (imparfait), as in (3) (English renderings here are literal):

(1) Il fut 'He was' [punctual, at a single given moment] (passé simple)
(2) a. Il a été 'He has been' (passé composé)
b. Il avait été 'He had been' (pluperfect)
(3) Il était 'He was' [enduring/durative] (imperfect)

The issue is that the passé simple is all but gone in Modern French, a few fixed phrases and literary uses notwithstanding (and the preterit/passé simple is usually not even taught in French language courses). The passé composé has taken its place, but it hasn't lost its present perfect use. Instead, the PC has the dual roles of the preterit and the present perfect, which is why I think there's variation in the translations given in Poehner and Lantolf.

Translating French PC as the preterit in some places and the present perfect in others doesn't to me indicate confusion as to whether some action is completed or not on the part of P&L (both are examples of perfective aspect, after all), but an attempt to reflect what Donna wanted to say, as best P&L can figure, not to provide a single "correct" translation for all instances of the PC in Donna's speech.

The same goes for the imparfait tense in French: "il était" can be translated as "he was" or "he used to be" depending on its context of use. This variable rendering (which is only relevant when translating into English, by the way; it's irrelevant for French speakers because our conceptualization of imperfective aspect encompasses both English meanings without having to distinguish between them through morphosyntax) wouldn't indicate confusion or incompetence on the part of the translator, but instead, his/her interpretation of how best to render the meaning of the utterance for an English-speaking/reading audience.


----- Original Message ----- From: "David Kellogg" <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
To: "Culture ActivityeXtended Mind" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 6:27 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] A bit more on Dynamic Assessment and second languagedevelopment

Well, I for one shall be sorry if this really is the final exchange on the article; it seems to me we are just getting started. However, it is a busy time of year here in Korea as well (finals today!), so of course I understand.

But since we are all busy, it’s probably a good idea to concentrate on the real disagreements that we actually have. I think you would have to look very hard on this list to find someone who will argue the position that Michael Long and Vivian Cook have defended, to wit, that language acquisition is like digestion, basically the same process in children as adults, and impervious to whether we are doing it in a crowded restaurant or in an easy chair in our own living room. (I’m not even sure Long defends that position any more and I am quite sure that Vivian Cook no longer does.)

Certainly Mike was not arguing that Sasha’s ability to exercise volitional control at the lexical level even before he could exercise volitional control at the phonological level is exactly the same process as Donna’s predicament. Donna has volitional control at the phonological level and she is trying to exercise volitional control at the grammatical level. Her understanding of the passé compose as similar to a known construction in her first language is both a help and a hindrance.

Of course, there is a difference between “declarative” and “procedural knowledge”. The distinction is not at all new; it has a long history in psychology as well as in language teaching and it is associated with Anderson’s skill theory. The issue is not whether they are distinct. The issue is whether they are linked, and if so, how.

As I am sure you know, this is the key issue separating the approach of someone like Richard Schmidt, who holds a position very close to that of Vygotsky on "noticing" as the link between deliberate control of a "language feature" and purely reactive imitative use, and the "unconscious" acquisitionists, in which we must include people like Krashen. The whole debate is reminiscent of nothing quite so much as the debate between Vygotsky on the one hand and Piaget on the other concerning the way in which teaching-and-learning on the one hand and development on the other can be kept distinct as well as linked.

The existence of people who fly to both extremes simultaneously, e.g. Ellis, Tarone and Long himself, is really reminiscent of nothing so much as Koffka and the Gestaltists, who believed that some kinds of teaching-and-learning really were the same as development (note: not linked to but identical with) and others were entirely unconnected. Ellis and Tarone hold that competence itself is variable (whatever that means), and Long now appears to think that the way in which eating becomes digestion is that we focus on forms while chewing. Both still believe that "implicit" learning is the gold standard of development rather than conscious and explicit choices.

My own position is closer to yours: I believe that conscious and deliberate choice is the goal, at least the goal of teaching-and-learning. However, I think that in order to have a conscious and a deliberate choice, one must first master the options. There is a good reason why adult language learning appears to be, in some ways, the reverse of first language learning, why adults begin with deliberate “declarative” control of the phasal aspects of speech and only end with what Anderson calls “procedural knowledge” after many years of work, while children appear to begin with fluent procedural knowledge and only achieve declarative control much later.

The reason is not because the two processes are completely distinct, but rather because they are linked: just as the classroom IS part of the real world when you are working or studying in it, foreign language learning DOES build onto your first language when you are doing it. To deny that at least SOME of the confusion we see in your data stems from a confusion between “elle a dit” and “she has said” is really to erect a Chinese wall where no such wall can exist. The unity of consciousness is complex, but it's there: a person with two languages does not have multiple personalities.

We can see this from the very inconsistent way in which your own transcript sometimes mistranslates the distinction between the passé compose and the imparfait and more often ignores it. Even in the translator’s mind, the English ways of conceptualizing whether or not an action is complete are not very well disentangled from the French ways of doing so.

I don’t think I ever said that tense has nothing to do with time. I think what I said was that tense is not time at all. But that is simply like saying that grammatical gender is not at all the same thing as biological sex; to say this does not imply that the use of a masculine pronoun has nothing whatsoever to do with the presence or absence of male genitalia in the object of reference.

“It’s time you did your homework” uses something that looks very much like the past tense but it means something that looks very much like the immediate future. I think the implied the contrast is between present and non-present, and one of the most vivid ways to do that in English is to contrast present and past.To say that a particular linguistic representation of a concept is not the concept itself does not imply that speech has nothing to do with thinking.

There are many ways to describe an English sentence like “I have said”; personally, I prefer Halliday’s designation of “past in present”. But I was using “imperfective” in exactly the sense that Poehner and Lantolf use it to describe the imparfait: “I have said” is a way of talking about a process whose completeness is not specified but a process is held to be relevant with respect to a given time of speaking. As such it is really closer to the imparfait than to the passe compose, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

I guess I think that is why it is a shame to give up the discussion at this point and simply wave each other in the direction of (e.g.) Comrie etc. (which I HAVE read, by the way!). It is only when the terminological knots that we take away from Anderson, Comrie, and even Vygotsky have really been unpicked and the meanings of terms have been warmed with the breath of the other that we are ready to start the debate in earnest.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Tue, 12/7/10, MATTHEW E POEHNER <mep158@psu.edu> wrote:

From: MATTHEW E POEHNER <mep158@psu.edu>
Subject: [xmca] A bit more on Dynamic Assessment and second language development
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Cc: jpl7@psu.edu
Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 5:53 PM

Hello, All

One final set of thoughts on the recent Dynamic Assessment paper in MCA, as
work and discussions are moving on...

What we think is problematic about the discussion on language learning is that we are talking about adults learning language in a classroom and Mike and David are talking about children learning/using language in everyday settings. These
are, on our view, very different cognitive processes. Indeed, this is why we
frame our arguments in the paper as we do, because many in applied linguistics,
such as Long, assume that processes of acquiring a second language unfold in
the same manner regardless of context (schooled or unschooled). Our point is
that this does not need to be the case, and that instructional settings need
not be organized to recreate the everyday world but can instead be organized to allow for a particular kind of development, as Vygotsky suggests. This is the
reason we reference Vygotsky’s characterization of schooling as artificial
development. Having said this, we will try to respond to some of the points you
both make regarding our earlier posting on consciousness and control.

1.We have no problem at all allowing for little Sasha to exercise control over
his avoidance of Yukky for fear of being the brunt of adult laughter. Again
perhaps we are at fault for not fully specifying our position on consciousness, control and adult language learning in tutored settings. We will try to clarify

2.The example of knot-tying that David cites from chapter 6 or TS doesn't tell the full story of what Vygotsky is getting at re. consciousness and it is the full story that we are making use of with regard to instructed L2 learning in adults. V. contrasts what David says with "conscious awareness". According to
V. the reason one cannot say how one precisely ties a knot is because "my
action, which is conscious, turns out to be lacking in conscious awareness
because my attention is directed toward the act of tying, not on how I carry
out that act Š the actions that I carry out in tying the knot -what I am doing - is not the object of my consciousness. However, it can become the object of consciousness when there is conscious awareness. Conscious awareness is an act of consciousness whose object is the activity of consciousness itself." In the next paragraph he continues: "To perceive something in a different way means to
acquire new potentials for acting with respect to it. At the chess board, to
see differently is to play differently." (p. 190, The collected works, volume
1). Finally, V. writes: "Thus, the foundation of conscious awareness is the
generalization or abstraction of the mental processes, which leads to their
mastery. Instruction has decisive role in this process. Scientific concepts
have a unique relationship to the object. This relationship is mediated through
other concepts that themselves have an internal hierarchical system of
interrelationships. It is apparently in this domain of the scientific concept
that conscious awareness of concepts or the generalization and mastery of
concepts emerges for the first time. And once a new structure of generalization
has arisen in one sphere of thought, it can - like any structure - be
transferred without training to all remaining domains of concepts and thought. Thus, conscious awareness enters through the gate opened up by the scientific
concept Š Conscious awareness and the presence of a system are synonyms when
we are speaking of concepts, just as spontaneity, lack of conscious awareness,
and the absence of a system are three different words for designating the
nature of the child's concept" (p. 191-192).

Apologies for the extended quote, but it does reflect what we are attempting to do in deliberate explicit instruction of an L2. We think adults function with
far greater control, again, not necessarily in the same way that a native
speaker does, of the new language, if they achieve conscious awareness of the
full system. As in the example of tense/aspect used in our previous posting,
they can "break the rules of the game" to achieve a specific communicative
intention. They do not have to be infantilized, as many teaching methodologies have done over the years, to become sophisticated users of a language. Mastery
of language by children as spontaneous knowledge is very different from the
kind of mastery of language by adults that we are trying to help bring about. In fact, one very important form of development, in our view, is that through learning an L2 in a tutored setting, individuals may come to better understand (i.e., develop conscious awareness of) their L1, as occurs when learners draw
connections between formal grammatical features in the two languages or how
metaphors function in both languages.

While learning a foreign language can be different from learning scientific
concepts, as for instance happens in immersion situations in the everyday world
or in so-called communicative classrooms as prescribed by Krashen, we don't
agree that it must be different. Why must we assume that language cannot be
scientifically presented to adult learners in the same way as other schools
subjects such as math, physics and biology? Just because, as David says, every
foreign language is someone else’s native language, there is absolutely no
reason to think that adult learners cannot understand even the most complex
feature of any language, if it is presented in a coherent and systematic way
and then linked to practical communicative activities. Linguists do indeed work to develop systematic (scientific) knowledge of language, and in our view this expertise is very much relevant to establishing curricula for L2 learners. Many
of the studies we and our colleagues have undertaken over the last few years
draw specifically on research in cognitive linguistics to establish the
scientific concepts that are the object of instruction.

3.We couldn't disagree more with David's attempt to rework our analysis. First of all, we have no idea how "elle a dit" resembles the English "imperfect." If anything it resembles the English "present perfect", which of course can be its function in French. As for the supposed "mistranslation" in line 5, we opted to
render "a ete" as a present perfect to give the reader a sense of the
difference between was, and was, given that English doesn't have a
morphological way of distinguishing imperfect from preterit. It is not a

The reason the mediator chose to adopt the so-called "echo chamber" role is not because he didn't know what he was doing, but because he knew precisely what he
was doing. To make the choice for Donna would not have been instructionally
useful. By echoing he allowed her the opportunity to continue to work through the problem and to bring out her own agency. Of course, there are often several
options that a mediator can deploy when attempting to help students. Indeed,
during the enrichment period the mediator provided the kind of instruction
suggested by David. The goal here was to see if the student had benefited from
the instruction. Allowing the learner to struggle somewhat as she worked
through the problem was crucial to diagnosing her understanding of the concept
of verbal aspect. In fact, in a more recent analysis of the interaction, we
noted that Donnna’s gestures and eye gaze played a central role in her
struggled to resolve the problem. One of the things this analysis shows is that she used her hands to imitate the visual model the instructor provided students
for helping them understand verbal aspect. Donna "gets it right" precisely
because she is thinking.

If David’s argument that aspect is a complex and not a concept is meant to
relate to what a native speaker might exhibit if asked to overtly explain how
aspect functions in her or his language, then we would agree with him. If
however, his comment is intended as a claim about what linguists know about
aspect and tense, he is simply wrong. Have a look at any linguistic book that deals with semantics, e.g., Frawley (1992) Linguistic Semantics. Evans (2005).
The Structure of Time. Comrie’s respective books on Tense and Aspect.

Finally, to assert that tense and aspect have nothing to do with time and at
the same time argue that they emerge from narrative use is contradictory.
Narratives have everything to do with temporally organized events. Indeed, some
in psychology use event schema or temporal schema to refer to the knowledge
that people internalize about a narratively organized world (e.g., Brunner,
Kintsch, Mandler)

4. One of course can reject anything, as David has done with regard to
Paradis's model. However, Paradis is not alone in proposing such a model of the
separation of declarative and procedural knowledge. Michael Ullman,
neuroscientist at Georgetown U. has come to a similar conclusion. We agree that
first language knowledge can be made explicit but it takes special
circumstances [education] for this to happen. According to Paradis and Ullman,
lexical knowledge in any language is declarative because we can without too
much reflection bring it to explicit conscious attention. However, not matter
how hard we may try, we are not going to be able to bring to conscious
attention the implicit knowledge we have for use of aspect, mood, anaphora,
particle verbs, etc. With regard to second language learning, what we said in
line with Paradis and Ullman is that declarative knowledge cannot become
implicit/procedural knowledge, although of course second language learners can become very quick at relying on declarative knowledge during performance, and thus may behaviorally resemble native speakers. Indeed, Ullman and Paradis have made extensive use of fMRI scans to empirically support the differences between
native speakers of a language and second language learners, even when their
observable performance appears to be the same (i.e., different parts of the
brain are active, notably, in the case of second language learners, those areas associated with declarative knowledge). Furthermore, we didn't say that one can never learn an L2 implicitly. It is possible, but rare. However, it is far more difficult and more likely to result in gaps and incorrect knowledge. So reject
if you must, but the evidence is otherwise.

Jim and Matt

Matthew E. Poehner
Assistant Professor, World Languages Education and Applied Linguistics
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Affiliate, Center for Language Acquisition
159 Chambers Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802
office phone: 814-865-2161

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