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[Xmca-l] Re: Acquisition of word meaning



Halliday is Vygotskyan. Explicitly so in places: he says that his concept
of consciousness as a social being derives from Vygotsky. Ruqaiya Hasan,
who sometimes lurks on this list, has written extensively on the
"exotropic" links between Halliday and Vygotsky. At first I didn't quite
believe this, because for Vygotsky what develops is a meta-system made up
of functions (psychological abilities), while for Halliday what develops is
a metafunction made up of systems (linguistic choices). But Gordon Wells
persuaded me: he points out that Halliday's "ideational metafunction" (this
is the function that allows us to represent the world as figures of
experience linked by logic, and is realized in nouns, verbs, and other
open-class words) is essentially equivalent to "thinking" and the
"interpersonal metafunction (this is the function that allows us to
exchange commodities such as goods and services or information and is
realized in commands, statements and questions) is essentially equivalent
to "speech".

I think the reason that I didn't get the profound and very
thorough connection between Halliday and Vygotsky (which seems more
endotropic than exotropic to me now) was that I kept assuming that when
Vygotsky says "word" he means something like a noun, as in the block
experiments of Chapter Five Thinking and Speech. But of course even in the
block experiments, what is meant is not a noun but something much more like
an attribute, which would be expressed as a nominal group in English but a
verbal group in Korean. And elsewhere it's clear that the word 'word'
actually means "wording"--what is a single word in the mouth of a very
young child is going to be a whole clause in an older child and eventually
an entire text.

So Mike's example is quite a propos. When I first read this example from
Shweder back in 2007, it seemed to me that Vygotsky would say that this
particular "wording" has nothing to do with morality, and of course it's
not really a concept. Now I am not so sure: I'm convinced that a lot of
ethical concepts develop out of almost purely esthetic ones, which is
actually a good example of how "perizhivanie" starts by meaning feeling and
only in the course of development comes to mean thinking.

In China, what girls tell their classmates in high school is that their
"Grandma is visiting" or else that they are "dao mei le" ("doomed"). This
was a highly prized condition when my wife was in high school, because it
meant that you didn't have to go out for physical education and you could
stay in and do math homework instead. So one day the boys told the physical
education teacher that they were all "doomed" and could not go either,

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


On 20 July 2014 03:02, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> 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)
>