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[Xmca-l] Acquisition of word meaning



While puzzling over all the interesting notes on
language/thought/emotion/development in recent days I happend upon the
following. It seems a potential object of interpretation that would help to
hightlight for us (for me at least) the stakes in the pattern of agreements
and disageements and silences in the conversation. Does Halliday inform our
understanding differently from Vygotsky might be a helpful question. Is
convergence of meaning and generalization manifest?  Anyway, perhaps it
will be of interest:
 (From an essay on culture's involvement in moral development by Shweder
and colleagues. Data from Orrisa).



*"Mara heici. Chhu na! Chhu na!*" is what a menstruating Oriya mother
explains when her young child approaches her lap. It means, "I am polluted.
Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" If the child continues to approach, the
woman will stand up and walk away from her child. Of course, young Oriya
children have no concept of menstruation or menstrual blood; the first
menstruation arrives as a total surprise to adolescent girls. Mother's
typically "explain" their own monthly "pollution" to their children by
telling then that they stepped in dog excrement or touched garbage, or they
evade the issue. Nevertheless, Oriya children quickly learn that there is
something called "*Mara"* (the term *cchuan* (check spelling) may also be
used) and when "*Mara*" is there, as it regularly is, their mother avoids
them, sleeps alone on a mat on the floor, is prohibited from entering the
kitchen... eats alone, does not groom herself and is, for several days,
kept at a distance from anything of value. Children notice that everything
their mother touches is washed. (Shweder, Mahapatra, & Miller, 1987, p. 74)