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Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?

So this thread does not die ...
You said, Mike, "So I am seeing the same solution to thinking about the ontogeny/microgenesis relationships by analogy with the phylogeny/cultural-history relation."

I don't see the analogy there. Phylogeny and ethnogeny are two (overlapping and mutually determining) processes with two very distinct material bases, viz., genes and artefacts. But learning to read/write and development of abstract thinking (and other leading activities in a developmental ZPD) is not such a relation, it is a relation between critical phases and lytic (gradual) phases of development. This is quite a different relationship.

The analogy I would see for something which couold be called microgenesis would be the /situation/: a concept develops momentrily in a person and their actions in a situation. The situation is not a factor in phylo- or ethnogensis, it essentially belongs to the very short time scale, and its material basis is activity. I grant that no-one might use "microgenesis" in that way and no-one may be doing research into that process these days. I don't know. But the situation is a distinct material basis for development and one on which Vygotsky did a great deal of work. On the other hand, I think /all/ processes of development have both critical and lytical phases (c.f. Gould's punctuated evolution).

What do you think?

mike cole wrote:
Lots of important stuff in your messages, thanks David.

I think where we are passing each other and discoordinating is that I am talking about the process of learning to read and alphabetic script, as a microgenetic process, or as a development occuring under particular cultural constraints.

So I am seeing the same solution to thinking about the ontogeny/microgenesis relationships by analogy with the phylogeny/cultural-history relation (your sociogenesis).

Another way of getting toward the same goal is to ask, are processes
occurring in a zone of proximal development, whatever that is, an ontogenetic or a microgenetic time scale? Of course the former is a moment in the latter, but to me the answer is yes. If the answer is yes,
how do we think about obuchenie and development at that time scale

If we can get into the same temporal space, perhaps we can continue to narrow down the differences to the point where we could declare agreement and then move on to seeing if we can increase the area covered by the light that we have concentrated on that problem.

On Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 4:38 PM, kellogg <kellogg59@hanmail.net <mailto:kellogg59@hanmail.net>> wrote:

    I guess I see "microgenesis" as a special case of genesis
    generally. But maybe all cases of genesis are special.

    I used to think of the relationship between microgenesis and
    ontogenesis by analogy with the link between phylogenesis and
    sociogenesis. Ironically, it was really MIKE who taught me to see
    the link between phylogenesis and sociogenesis as a problem and
    not just a postulate, as a moment when phylogenesis provides the
    environment for sociogenesis but sociogenesis in return provides
    the very content for the next (relatively short) phase of

    Mike argued that for hundreds of thousands of years, the rudiments
    of society and the vestiges of biological evolution must have
    co-existed (see "the co-evolution of mind and brain"). Of course,
    in the long run, we have to say that sociogenesis really did turn
    phylogenesis on its head--that we can, at least in logical terms,
    treat the product of phylogenesis, that is, the biological type of
    man, as stable and unchanging and attribute the variations we see
    around us to sociogenesis alone. Indeed, we must, if we are not to
    fall into the very worst and most unscientific fallacies of
    nineteenth century ethnography.

    But they didn't know about all that back then, poor schleps. What
    they knew about were some circumstances where certain socially
    derived advantages, e.g. collective production, fire, cooperation,
    appeared to derive advantages that were not obtainable from
    individual advantages, and other situations where the reverse
    appeared to obtain. In a footnote to Scribner's article
    "Vygotsky's uses of history", Scribner notes that Vygotsky
    sometimes uses the word "phylogenesis" to refer to both
    prehistoric evolution and historical change in the human species
    (e.g. epigenetic changes such as the fact that we are growing
    taller, the Flynn effect, etc.

    Vygotsky was certainly aware of (and actually refers to) the kinds
    of phenomena that Baldwin was studying--the circumstance where,
    for example, although the incest taboo appears to be biological
    and is almost certainly selected for genetically, it can be and
    is overcome, so that for example in almost every society the
    ruling classes perpetuate family fortunes largely by overcoming
    the innate humane distaste for semi-incestuous marriages to one
    degree or another. See, for example, the perverse marriage
    practices of ancient Egyptian royalty, and also the prevalence of
    diseases like porphyria and hemophilia in European royal families,
    and of course the American horror of miscegenation, which, viewed
    dispassionately, can only be seen as a good thing (and can be even
better when considered passionately).
    It seems logical (though not exactly historical) to say that
    phylogenesis provides the basis for sociogenesis, and sociogenesis
    then, in return, creates the next stage of phylogenesis, almost as
    a byproduct of a new and more important form of progress (by
    providing a better diet which allows us to grow taller, and by
    mass literacy, and of course by the Baldwin effect). Viewed from
    phylogenesis, sociogenesis is a kind of microgenesis, just as
    viewed from sociogenesis, phylogenesis appears to be no genesis at

    Now, I am not a naturally dialectical thinker. So my first impulse
    when confronted with the link between sociogenesis and ontogenesis
    (e.g. the child learning to read) is to treat it exactly the same
    way. The society that children are born into seems unchanging and
    homogenous when we consider the diachronic variations observable
    in child behavior as the child grows older. But in the long run,
    we have to say that ontogenesis really turns sociogenesis
    upside-down; kids do not grow up to be their parents; they grow up
    to be themselves.

    You can see this in the forms of literacy that children are
    developing in South Korea today, many of which are quite
    incomprehensible to me for reasons that have nothing to do with my
    grasp of Korean. Children do grow up and make transformations in
    society, and some of these transformations are contemporaneouos
    with the child's adolescence and young adulthood. Vygotsky
    himself, who seems so extraordinary to us but in many ways was
    quite typical of his generation, is a very good example of how
    ontogenesis can provide the next moment of sociogenesis. The
    relationship is not symmetrical--this is why i really loathe the
    thoughtless formula "constructs and is constructed by"--but an
    unsymmetrical relationship is still a relationship, else we could
    not say "physical chemistry" or "molecular biology".

    But of course my analogy is losing its grip on
    reality. The Russian revolution conceived as a moment when the
    ontogenesis of Lenin provided the next zone of development for a
    whole society is the Russian revolution misconceived. And while I
    do think that microgenesis provides the next zone of development
    for ontogenesis (and that is why we must distinguish between
    developmentally inert forms of teaching-and-learning and those
    which are rich in potential for ontogenesis), I also think that
    there is an important sense in which microgenesis is sui generis.
    But that's probably true of sociogenesis and phylogenesis too!

    David Kellogg

    Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

    --------- 원본 메일 ---------

        *보낸 사람*: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
        *받는사람* : lchcmike@gmail.com <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>
        *참조* : "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
        <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>
        *날짜*: 2012년 10월 04일 목요일, 00시 59분 15초 +0900
        *제목*: Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?
        Does Vygotsky ever /mention /"microgenesis" or whatever the
        Russian translation of the word is?


        mike cole wrote:
        Hi Andy-- Maybe I am off on a totally mistaken path here. It
        would not be the first time. But in raising the examples I
        have, I have been seeking to clarify a question, i think
        initiated by greg about microgenesis.

        Here is the question I have been trying to get clear about.

        Is there such a process, in a Vygotskian framework, as
        micro-genesis that involves development? Or is all
        microgenetic change "learning." (As in the
learning/development distinction).
        So each time an answer comes back that moves the genetic
        domain from
        microgenesis to ontogenesis from *my* perspective, its a
        change of topic,
        not an answer.

        David pointed us to Vygotsky/Koffka on maturation
        (development? ravitie?) and learning (obuchenie), which
        introduces its own ambiguities?

        I want to print out the materials that David posted to read
        more carefully and am hoping we can either dismiss my
        question as a misunderstanding of what the conversation was
        about or hone in enough on the topic so that we all feel like
        we are talking about the same thing. Right now I am pretty
        sure we are not.


        On Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 6:25 AM, Andy Blunden
        <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

            No, I don't believe Vygotsky is speaking of microgenesis,
            My PS was responding to David saying:

               "It’s that moment when learning-and-teaching leads
            development, or
               opens the next stage of development (as Koffka says, a
               of learning and teaching yields a mark of development)
            that I always
               thought was called microgenesis."


            Mike Cole wrote:

                Is he speaking of micro genesis, Andy?

                On Oct 3, 2012, at 5:59 AM, Andy Blunden
                <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

                    Mike, reading Chapter 6 of "Thinking and Speech"
                    about written speech,
                    it seems to me that Vygotsky takes the
                    development of written speech as
                    archetypical and a pre-requiresite for the
                    development of true concepts
                    in modern society. He actually says that in
                    taking up instruction in
                    grammar (which is always associated with the
                    learning of written speech)
                    he is deferring the formation of scientific
                    concepts to "susbsequent

                    As is well-known, he points to at least three
                    characteristics of written
                    speech which are significant: that it requires
                    conscious awareness of
                    the semantic, syntactic and phonetic properties
                    of both inner and oral
                    speech; it requires an abstraction from the
                    speech-situation and in
                    particular the interlocutor; finally, it requires
                    a motivation which is
                    entirely absent for the child when they begin to
                    learn written speech.

                    Each qualitative leap, each /development/ in the
                    psychological growth of
                    a child is marked by a crisis and sharp change in
                    the will, the
                    development of new motivations and therewith new
                    relationships, new
                    "situations". The motivation is no longer
                    provided by the situation, an
                    answer is required when there is no question.
                    Thus the achievement of
                    written speech requires conscious control of the
                    will in abstraction
                    from the situation, and reflecting upon and
                    controlling inner speech.
                    The formulation of actions, thinking, in the
                    absence of the actual,
                    sensuous presence of the stimulus, is one of the
                    most central
                    characteristic of conceptual thought. This is a
                    development that is
                    required even in non-literate communities. But in
                    modern societies, the
                    psychic functions required for conceptual, i.e.,
                    culturally inherited
                    means of action, are acquired through formal
                    schooling and as I see it
                    the means of doing so is the mastery of written

                    Back on the 29 September, you asked:

                       "Since qualitative change in the organization
                    of sensory-motor
                       behavior appear off the table when discussing
                    HIGHER psych
                       functions, might you turn your scalpels to the
                    acquisition of the
                       ability to read a phonetic alphabet fluently?
                    How am I going wrong
                       in believing that acquisition of reading is a
                    developmental process
                       in which learning also plays an essential role
                    that shifts in the
                       course off acquisition?"

                    It is really nothing to with sensory-motor
                    behavior, even though
                    sensory-motor behavior is the only means by which
                    written speech can be
                    manifested. But if a child has normal vision and
                    normal control of their
                    hands, and these functions are sufficiently
                    developed to recognise the
                    letters of the alphabet, then teaching the child
                    to read and write them
                    is a good move. But it is not development itself.
                    What is development is
                    acquisition of those functions Vygotsky talks
                    about: abstraction from
                    the semantic, syntactic and phonetic properties
                    of oral speech;
                    abstraction from interlocutor and the speech
                    situation; and the
                    development of motivations to write. None of the
                    actions implied in this
                    psychological development are possible unless the
                    child has /some/ means
                    of written speech. Learning the ABCs simply
                    creates the possibility for
                    the leap of mastering one's own thinking by the
                    means of written speech with a phonetic alphabet.

                    That's how I read it.

                    PS. David. "Microgenesis" is not really part of
                    my vocabulary, but I
                    think it is not warranted to apply the term to
                    the critical phases of
                    ontogenesis. These are after all ontogenesis. I
                    have always taken
                    "microgenesis" to refer to the processes whereby
                    a given psychological
                    condition, or process, or action, is manifested
                    out of its conditions,
                    ie., something which happens every second. E.g.
                    if I have a problem and
                    then I hit on the solution; or if I meet someone,
                    and in a second or two
                    recognize them and adopt an orientation to them;
                    or I want to speak in a
                    meeting, stand up and then speak. That is the
                    context in which I say
                    concepts /are/ themselves processes of
                    development (and not just the
                    product of development).

                    mike cole wrote:
                        Thanks David.

                        So there is microgenetic DEVELOPMENT of
                        reading, or is LSV talking about
                        the ontogenetic change that comes from
                        mediation of activity through


                        On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 7:56 PM, kellogg
                        <mailto:kellogg59@hanmail.net>> wrote:

                              First of all, here's Vygotsky attacking
                            Meumann and Piaget for the
                            view that learning to read and write is
                            really just learning, and not a
                            fundamental restructuring of the child's
                            understanding. It's from Thinking
                            and Speech, Chapter Six, Part Three. But
                            unfortunately neither English
                            translation is really adequate. So here
                            is the Russian:

                            Обучение как бы пожинает плоды детского
                            созревания, но само по себе
                            обучение остается безразличным для
                            развития. У ребенка память, внимание и
                            мышление развились до такого уровня, что
                            он может обучаться грамоте и
                            арифметике; но если мы его обучим грамоте
                            и арифметике, то его память,
                            внимание и мышление изменятся или нет?
                            Старая психология отвечала на этот
                            вопрос так: изменятся в той мере, в какой
                            мы будем их упражнять, т.е. они
                            изменятся в результате упражнения, но
                            ничего не изменится в ходе их
                            развития. Ничего нового не возникнет в
                            умственном развитии ребенка от того,
                            что мы его обучим грамоте. Это будет тот
                            же самый ребенок, но грамотный.
                            Эта точка зрения, целиком определяющая
                            всю старую педагогическую
                            психологию, в том числе и известную
                            работу Меймана, доведена до логического
                            предела в теории Пиаже. Его точка зрения
                            такова, что мышление ребенка с
                            необходимостью проходит через известные
                            фазы и стадии, независимо от того,
                            обучается этот ребенок или нет. Если он
                            обучается, то это есть чисто
                            внешний факт, который еще не находится в
                            единстве с его собственными
                            процессами мышления. Поэтому педагогика
                            должна считаться с этими
                            автономными особенностями детского
                            мышления как с низшим порогом,
                            определяющим возможности обучения. Когда
                            же у ребенка разовьются другие
                            возможности мышления, тогда станет
                            возможным и другое обучение. Для Пиаже
                            показателем уровня детского мышления
                            является не то, что ребенок знает, не
                            то, что он способен усвоить, а то, как он
                            мыслит в той области, где он
                            никакого знания не имеет. Здесь самым
                            резким образом противопоставляются
                            обучение и развитие, знание и мышление.
                            Исходя из этог Пиаже задает ребенку
                            такие вопросы, в отношении которых он
                            застрахован от того, о,что ребенок
                            может иметь какие-нибудь знания о
                            спрашиваемом предмете. А если мы
                            спрашиваем ребенка о таких вещах, о
                            которых у него могут быть знания, то
                            здесь мы получаем не результаты мышления,
                            а результаты знания. Поэтому
                            спонтанные понятия, возникающие в
                            процессе развития ребенка,
                            рассматриваются как показательные для его
                            мышления, а научные понятия,
                            возникающие из обучения, не обладают этой
                            показательностью. Поэтому же, раз
                            обучение и развитие резко
                            противопоставляются друг другу, мы приходим с
                            необходимостью к основному положению
                            Пиаже, согласно которому научные
                            понятия скорее вытесняют спонтанные и
                            занимают их место, чем возникают из
                            них, преобразуя их.

                            "Teaching-and-learning reaps the benefits
                            of the children's maturation,
                            but is in itself of no interest to
                            development. If we teach literacy and
                            numeracy when the child's memory,
                            attention and thinking have evolved to
                            such a level that it can be taught, will
                            his memory, attention and thinking
                            change or no? The old psychology
                            responded to this question thus: it will
                            change to the extent that we exercise
                            them, i.e. it will change as a result
                            of exercise, but nothing will change in
                            the course of their development.
                            There is nothing new here in the mental
                            development of the child from what
                            we taught him to read. It will be the
                            same child, but competent. This
                            view is entirely fixed by the whole of
                            the old educational psychology,
                            including the well-known work of Meumann,
                            and brought to its logical limit
                            in Piaget's theory. His point of view is
                            that the child's thinking must
                            needs to pass through certain phases and
                            stages, regardless of whether the
                            child undergoes teaching-and-learning or
                            not. If he undergoes it, this is
                            a purely external fact, which is not yet
                            in any communion with his own
                            thinking processes. Pedagogy should
                            therefore be considered alongside the
                            autonomous features of children's
                            thinking, as a lower threshold
                            determining teaching-and-learning. When a
                            child develops, other ways of
                            thinking and other forms of
                            teaching-and-learning will then be
                            possible. For
                            Piaget, the indicator of the child's
                            thinking is not what the child knows,
                            not what he is able to learn, but the way
                            he thinks in an area where he has
                            no knowledge. Here lies the very sharpest
                            contrast between
                            teaching-and-learning and development,
                            between knowledge and thinking. It
                            is on this basis that Piaget sets the
                            child questions with respect to which
                            he may be assured that the child can have
                            no knowledge whatever. For if
                            we ask the child about things about which
                            he may have knowledge, here we do
                            not get the results of thinking, but the
                            results of knowledge. Therefore,
                            spontaneous notions arising in the
                            development of the child shall be
                            considered as indicative of his thinking,
                            and scientific concepts that
                            arise from learning-and-teaching, do not
                            have this potential. For the
                            same reason, once learning-and-teaching
                            and development are sharply
                            counterposed to each other, we
                            necessarily arrive at the main point of
                            Piaget, according to which scientific
                            concepts rather displace spontaneous
                            and take their place rather than derive
                            from them, transforming them."

                            Later on, Vygotsky dwells at some length
                            on his disagreements with Koffka.
                            It will be seen that the passage which
                            Vygotsky is lingering over is
                            precisely the one that Mike sent around:

                            Есть, наконец, третья группа теорий,
                            которая особенно влиятельна в
                            европейской детской психологии. Эти
                            теории пытаются подняться над
                            крайностями обеих точек зрения, которые
                            изложены выше. Они пытаются
                            проплыть между Сциллой и Харибдой. При
                            этом случается то, что обычно
                            происходит с теориями, занимающими
                            среднее место между двумя крайними
                            точками зрения. Они становятся не над
                            обеими теориями, а между ними,
                            преодолевая одну крайность ровно в такой
                            мере, в какой они попадают в
                            другую. Одну неправильную теорию они
                            преодолевают, частично уступая другой,
                            а другую . уступками первой. В сущности
                            говоря, это . двойственные теории:
                            занимая позицию между двумя
                            противоположными точками зрения, они на самом
                            деле приводят к некоторому объединению
                            этих точек зрения.

                            Такова точка зрения Коффки, который
                            заявляет с самого начала, что развитие
                            всегда имеет двойственный характер:
                            во-первых, надо различать развитие как
                            созревание и, во-вторых, надо различать
                            развитие как обучение. Но это и
                            значит признать в сущности две прежние
                            крайние точки зрения, одну вслед за
                            другой, или объединить их. Первая точка
                            зрения говорит, что процессы
                            развития и обучения независимы друг от
                            друга. Ее Коффка повторяет,
                            утверждая, что развитие и есть
                            созревание, не зависящее в своих внутренних
                            законах от обучения. Вторая точка зрения
                            говорит, что обучение есть
                            развитие. Эту точку зрения Коффка
                            повторяет буквально.

                            "There is, finally, a third group of
                            theories, which is particularly
                            influential in European child psychology.
                            These theories attempt to rise
                            above the extremes of both points of
                            view, as set out above. They are
                            trying to sail between Scylla and
                            Charybdis. In this case, what happens is
                            the usual case with theories that occupy
                            the middle ground between two
                            extremes. They do not stand above the two
                            theories but between them
                            overcoming one extreme exactly to the
                            extent to which they veer towards the
                            other. They overcome one wrong theory by
                            partially surrendering to another.
                            Generally speaking, it is a dualistic
                            theory: occupying a position between
                            two opposing points of view, they
                            actually result from some combination of
                            the two points of view."

                            "This is the view Koffka, who states at
                            the outset that the development is
                            always dualistic: First, we must
                            distinguish development as maturation and
                            second we must distinguish development as
                            learning-and-teaching. But this
                            means to recognize in essence the two
                            previous extreme positions one after
                            the other, or combine them. The first
                            point of view is that the processes
                            of development and learning-and-teaching
                            are independent of each other.
                            Here Koffka repeats the argument that
                            development and maturation are not
                            dependent in their internal laws upon
                            learning-and-teaching. The second
                            point of view is that learning is
                            development. This view too Koffka repeats
                            word for word."

                            Vygotsky goes on to discuss three
                            positive elements in Koffka's work:
                            First, Koffka recognizes that there are
                            two different things and they exist
                            in a state of mutual dependence. Second,
                            Koffka must introduce a new
                            conception of learning-and-teaching,
                            namely the appearance of new
                            structures and the completion of old
                            ones. Thirdly, Koffka raises, although
                            he cannot solve, the whole question of
                            whether learning-and-teaching leads
                            development or the other way around. It's
                            that moment when
                            learning-and-teaching leads development,
                            or opens the next stage of
                            development (as Koffka says, a
                            pfennigsworth of learning and teaching
                            yields a mark of development) that I
                            always thought was called

                            In developing that second point, on the
                            new STRUCTURAL conception of
                            learning-and-teaching that Vygotsky
                            distinguishes between
                            learning-and-teaching that offers only
                            the skill that it offers and a
                            transformative skill--and the example he
                            gives of the former is learning to

                            type. What about the latter, though? It
                            seems to me he has already given us
                            an example of the latter at the very
                            outset of this discussion when he was
                            raking Meumann and Piaget over the coals.
                            It is when a child learns that he
                            or she can draw speech.

                            David Kellogg

                            Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

                            --------- 원본 메일 ---------

                            *보낸사람*: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com
                            *받는사람* : "eXtended Mind,
                            Culture,Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
                            <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>, kellogg
                            *날짜*: 2012년 10월 03일 수요일, 08시 43
                            분 37초 +0900
                            *제목*: microgenesis?

                            Hi David- This message was begun several
                            days ago but got hung up in my
                            messy schedule and a delay while I got to

                            I would like very much to continue the
                            microgeneis discussion started by
                            Greg (or was it you?) because it seems to
                            me to get us to the heart of the
                            learning/development issue. We made a lot
                            of progress a few years ago when
                            you and Andy and I tried to write down
                            "our" theory of development, with
                            LSV as the paternal text.

                            While I have been off doing my form of
                            inquiry, you have been doing
                            yours  including all of the intense work
                            on Tool and Znak, and immersing
                            yourself in the texts.

                            I have  have a copy of Koffka at home, so
                            I read a bunch of places where
                            the learning/development issue is brought up.

                            Rather than jump straight into
                            conversation, I would like to provide
                            other xmca'ites as wish, to read the
                            texts being discussed.

                            To that end, I have attached a few pages
                            from Koffka that seem
                            particularly to the point. As I
                            understand it, this approach, which
                            attributes cultural influences on
                            development only for forms of action that
                            are species typical/universal and closely
                            related to (acquiring a first
                            language, acquiring the ability to walk
                            and run and jump and duck, and so

                            So the answer to questions about
                            development being involved in learning
                            to ride a bike or acquing the ability to
                            read a phonetic alphabet. The
                            matter is forclosed. Reading is a process
                            of learning, ipso facto, end of

                            You indicate in your note that LSV also
                            had some disagreements with
                            Koffka, but I was not clear on what they
                            were. If you could elaborate in
                            context I would find it helpful.

                            So, moving slowly, and doggedly sticking
                            to the topic of microgenesis of
                            functions including acquiring the ability
                            to walk, to ride a bike, and to
                            learn to read, and lets include acquire a
                            language, since that is clearly a
                            central topic, I attach the relevant
                            pages from Koffka so others can see
                            what we are nattering on about, and at
                            least figure out what is at stake.

                            If you would indicate other parts of
                            Koffka to read, David, if you think
                            them relevant, I can make the pdf and

                            more to come.

                            PS-- ALL-- Note David's new email. I am
                            probably not the only one who
                            missed the transition to it.



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                    *Andy Blunden*
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        *Andy Blunden*
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*Andy Blunden*
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Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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