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[xmca] Word Meaning and Action
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- Subject: [xmca] Word Meaning and Action
- From: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2011 14:44:01 +1000
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Apologies! On further reflection, I can now see that what you want me to
clarify, Martin, is the claim that by "word meaning," Vygotsky means an
"artefact-mediated action," rather than a property (be it psychological
or linguistic) of an artefact.
I will get busy on that,
Andy Blunden wrote:
Martin, before I devote another day to "cherry picking" for this one,
can I try to clarify what I am gathering textual evidence for, please?
You say "It is very clear to me that LSV viewed word-meaning as
objective." This is of course true, but it is equally true that
Vygotsky regarded word meaning as something subjective; word meaning
develops, it has an inner and an outer aspect. So, am I right that I
need to gather quotes which evidence that Vygotsky distinguished
between what Tony called the "potentiality" of a word, and its inner,
or pshycological form?
Is that right?
Martin Packer wrote:
I don't disagree with any of what you have proposed in this message
or the preceding ones. I think it's a very plausible account of sign
use. And I think it is very helpful to introduce such an account. But
there seem to me to be two threads here that are mingling, and it
would be helpful to keep them distinct. I have been trying to figure
out what 'word meaning' meant to Vygotsky. It seems to me we have to
understand what he wrote (that it, achieve a coherent and consistent
interpretation of his texts) before we can critique it. You and
others, on the other hand, are proposing an account of meaning that
you find convincing. Both of these are valuable enterprises, for
sure. The confusion comes when a Peircean account of meaning, for
instance, is attributed to Vygotsky. It is very clear to me that LSV
viewed word-meaning as objective. I could turn out to be mistaken, of
course. But if anyone here wants to offer a different interpretation
of LSV's notion of word meaning, it needs to be based on textual
evidence, not on plausibility. I have never said that I find LSV's
treatment of word meaning to be plausible, because I've not yet fully
figured it out! Perhaps we will eventually decide that his account of
words and concepts doesn't make sense. But we shouldn't turn this
process around and try to decide first what is a plausible account of
concepts and words, and then attribute this to Vygotsky. I'm not
saying that this is what you are doing, Tony. But somewhere in the
gaps between messages this seems to me to be what has been happening.
On Jun 15, 2011, at 10:52 AM, Tony Whitson wrote:
Put most briefly, for anybody who is interested:
Signs potentiate interpretation. That is what signs do. That's what
semiosis (the activity of signs) is. This is the _semiosic_ activity
of triadic sign relations. The meaning of a word consists of the
interpretation that the word (qua sign) potentiates.
Weights resist the muscular activity of lifting. This is dynamic
physical action (not tradic semiosic activity). In this capacity,
the weight is just a thing, and not a sign.
Of course weights, beyond just in their dynamic resistance, can also
participate in sign activity (as apparently they did in Congressman
Weiner's weight-lifting in the Gongressional gym).
On Wed, 15 Jun 2011, Huw Lloyd wrote:
On 15 June 2011 14:53, Tony Whitson <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
The OED reflects the existing usage of words.
Semiotics explores and attempts to account for the nature of signs
activity, including the nature of the meaning that signs do, and
do their meaning.
Semiotics is not about deference to common usage, any more than is
Which is why distinct terms are used.
If by "The meaning of a word is something the word does", you mean the
active system of mental representations in which the word meaning
(a set of
relations) inheres and participates with other word meaning in
contexts, then we need to dig into this system to identify which
relate to the defined word, and which relate to the system in which it
participates. Care must be taken not to confuse the defined thing
system it participates in. Words (like the weights of weight
(on their own) do anything, the system they participate in does the
This is simply my opinion. It's fairly self-evident to me, and
something I'm deeply interested in pursing, relative to other
So, hopefully, I've answered the question put to me, and can let
you get on
with your ruminations.
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"those who fail to reread
are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
-- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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