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Re: [xmca] "Inner Form" of Word, Symmetry, Ivanov Bateson?
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- Date: Thu, 2 Jun 2011 19:17:26 -0700 (PDT)
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Hi Mike and Dear All in this (a)symmetrical thread,
Mike, you asked "If the symmetry position is associated with timelessness/religion, might there be help here for further thought about inner/outer forms of words in the process of thought?"
I am not sure about Ivanov, but it seems that one more name, that of Luria and his school of neuropsychology (and yes, Martin, Akhutina is included as is everyone else from Luria's schools of neuropsychology), could be of use here.
Goldberg (Luria's former grad student), for example, provides us with a more dynamic and dialectical view on asymmetry between hemispheres in terms of language development than traditionally was accepted. Goldberg doesn't dispute the linkage of language to one of the hemispheres, but he treats it only as a special case of a more fundamental principle of brain organization. He believes that the essential, core differences between the hemispheres lie in the differences between novelty and routinization of behavior. Therefore, it is not the right-left asymmetry itself that matters, but the existence of their asymmetric roles in learning. (I almost added "learning activity" here, but let's not rush). Right seems to be more specialized in novel information, and left is more adapted to routinized analysis and synthesis. It appears that some sort of broad transfer of function happens from right to left during language development -- and not only during language development.
I do not want to dwell here on the connections between Vygotsky and Luria theories (Akhutina does wonderful job with this, so one can read Akhutina on it), but I can't help but think that if we were to tackle the issue of "inner/outer form" of the word, we would have to, at some point, look at the process of interiorization. And the activity during which the novelty/routine changes the places. Thus, Martin may remember, I asked him a question about the "inner form" of "inner speech." At different levels of the interiorization of speech we would have to, theoretically, find different inner forms.
I am not sure if I am answering your question on asymmetry or muddling the waters even more here. I do, however, believe that Luria's school brings many interesting ideas to the forefront of this discussion. It seems to me that we ought to somehow connect the "inner/outer" issue with their position as well.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Martin Packer" <email@example.com>
To: "Michael Cole" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 2:22:02 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] "Inner Form" of Word, Symmetry, Ivanov Bateson?
This is a new angle for me! Can you give me a bit more back story? A bit of Googling leads to Roman Jakobson suggesting that the right hemisphere processes functional sounds, while the left processes symbolic sounds (quoting Sapir's Sound Patterns in English on the distinction). And Akhutina, in The Structure of the Individual Mental Lexicon from the Standpoint of L.S. Vygotsky’s Ideas, suggests that the left hemisphere holds the kind of system of generalization that LSV described, while the right hemisphere holds an "image glossary" of associations between words and perceptual images. (But Akhutina, IMHO, conflates concept with word meaning.) Jakobson, too, proposes that the right hemisphere immediately turns an auditory percept into "a simple concrete concept lying outside of language proper," while the left handles both the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes of semantics.
But I'm not sure that this is the kind of thing you were proposing? If I only had a brain!
On May 30, 2011, at 12:42 PM, mike cole wrote:
> David, Tony, Martin..........
> I am still pondering this note, even though the discussion has moved along.
> The issue that is pestering me is change in word meaning over ontogeny and
> cultural history.
> In the 1980's I got to know VV Ivanov. He was preoccupied at the time with
> the importance of A-symmetry and talking a lot of right brain/left brain
> stuff that did not
> particularly excite me at the time.
> Your discussion of inner/outer form of word got me thinking about him and
> I have been unable to find this essay in English
> *The Asymmetry of the Brain and of the Sign Systems*). Moscow,Sovetskoe
> radio, 1978.
> Ivanov was/is a fan of Tartu semiological theories.
> If the symmetry position is associated with timelessness/religion, might
> there be help here for further thought about inner/outer forms of words in
> the process of thought?
> Then I remembered Bateson's focus (in Mind and Nature) on assymetry as
> foundational to development. I do not have my copy of the book to hand, but
> I believe that it is assymetry that underlies the shape of a snail's shell
> and the symbol on the lchc home page.
> Any help out there in xmcaland?
> On Fri, May 27, 2011 at 8:08 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
>> Martin and I have been puzzling over Vygotsky's occasional references to
>> the "inner form" of a word: where did Vygotsky GET the idea? What did he DO
>> with it? And above all why does it MATTER?
>> Well, I recently read two books that I think solve these questions, but
>> introduce a whole slew of new ones. The two books are:
>> Tihanov, G. (2009) Gustav Shpet's Contribution to Philosophy and Cultural
>> Theory. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.
>> Seifrid, T. (2005) The Word Made Self. Ithaca and London: Cornell
>> University Press.
>>> From the Tihanov volume (an edited text) we learn two important things
>> about inner form. First of all, the idea of inner form of LANGUAGE does
>> indeed go back to Humboldt and even further (the Port Royal Grammarians
>> apparently used it!). But it's Potebnia who says that a WORD has inner form.
>> This Potebnian formulation obviously begs to be qualified: a word like "of"
>> or "the" or even "to be" wears its inner form on its sleeve, and may have
>> less of it than a word like "hedgehog" or "God" or even "to run".
>> Well, Seifrid argues that this Potebnian interpretation of Humboldt came
>> with a LOT of religious baggage. Potebnia believed that the "inner form" of
>> a word was its "nearest psychological meaning", i.e. its sense. But he ALSO
>> believed that this essence (or maybe "es-sense") was innate and stable, as
>> opposed to the historically changing outer form.
>> That idea, of a God-made word whose inner "self" is unchanging but which
>> can manifest itself in "you" (Christ) and even in "he" (the Holy Spirit),
>> was very attractive to Russian Orthodox philologists, including the
>> Symbolists, later the Acmeists, Florensky, Bulgakov, and possibly Bakhtin.
>> Bakhtin, who Seifrid does not discuss much, is a VERY curious case. I used
>> to think, along with Emerson and Morson, that there is no serious evidence
>> that he was a deeply religious man, not even his early writings. But Seifrid
>> points out that one of the conceits that Florensky and Bulgakov had was that
>> the human body was basically SYMMETRICAL: not only along the head to crotch
>> axis but even along a left hip right hip axis: the kidneys correspond to
>> lungs, the asshole to the mouth and so on. Florensky and Bulgakov (and
>> I think Bakhtin too) played with the idea that semen and language were
>> equivalent effluvia, one from the upper and one from the lower bodily
>> There are three reasons why I think Bakhtin might have been in on the joke:
>> First, and worst, although Bakhtin claims to be interested in novels, he
>> never expresses any sustained interest in the work of any woman novelist of
>> any nationality whatsoever, and the novel is, at least in English and
>> French, an overwhelming feminine mode of expression. Secondly, in his
>> Rabelais book he writes almost obsessively about the "lower bodily stratum"
>> and its effusions and is particularly amused by the correspondance of
>> flatulence to laughter, and other forms of inverting high and low. Thirdly,
>> the Rabelais book was, as we know, rejected, when Bakhtin submitted it as a
>> Ph.D. although to all appearances it is a very sound, even miraculous, work
>> of medieval scholarship. If it was recognized as a work associated with
>> Florensky and Bulgakov, that would explain it.
>> Shpet also signs up to this idea of an unchanging "inner form", and rejects
>> "psychologism" on precisely these grounds. But it's EXACTLY the opposite of
>> Vygotsky's view. Yesterday I pointed out that the Donizetti aria presents
>> two DIFFERENT views of causation, both of which may be said to be
>> "mechanical": Adina says her infidelity is caused by her inner essence, and
>> Nemorino says her unchanging love is caused by an outer force.
>> This is, I think, Vygotsky's view! Inner form is actually what CHANGES from
>> moment to moment, flitting and fluttering, pattering and puttering. Outer
>> form changes too, but more slowly, the way that the river, grieving and
>> grooving the mountains, drags them down grain by grain to the sea.
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
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