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[Xmca-l] Re: Halliday and Vygotsky


I'm a little out of practice at this (if you're new, Henry, I think I would be "decayed"), and I know nothing of Halliday, so I will admit to even greater inadequacy. But I took an interest in Cognitive Linguistics awhile back, and Chomsky too. For what it's worth, I think you're on the right track. 

For Chomsky, grammar and language are so infinitely complex that they can only exist in the presence of a black box, an innate sense of grammar, that, like a cryptographic key, provides the basis for beginning interpretation. Humans are not just physiologically adapted to language activity, but are atomic linguistic beings: in a fundamental way, language is beyond culture and experience. It is a theory of dico, ergo sum. 

For Langacker, grammar and language begins with the embodied nature of our perception--up, down, on, under, here, there--but it doesn't end there; this physiological sense of size, perspective, and experience in our world provides the cryptographic key for associating sounds with activity and experience. I can't claim to have any profound insights into Langacker, though I struggled through (or scanned for comprehension) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar volumes 1 and 2, and it's been a long time since I looked at them, but I think the parallel is to language emerging from mimetic representation, first from observation and experience, and then internalized as the basis for shared mimetic representations associated with sounds, along the lines of Merlin Donald--and of course CHAT: Meaning emerges from interaction with objects, sounds and a community in action--and this experience of language, enriched with meanings derived from the practical experiences of
 others,and logic beyond the experience of the child, rapidly becomes the medium of self-expression and analytical action.  

The Cognitive Metaphor part of Cognitive Linguistics is an extension of that idea: Language has built into it what Marx might call the dead labor of generations in creating shorthand narratives of experience and action, both in a strictly embodied sense within the physical constraints of our world (up is hard, down is easy; "it's all downhill from here") and in more complex interpersonal and societal interactions.

The implicit educational idea in this is surely what drew together film director Sergei Eisenstein and Zaporozhets, Leontiev, Luria and Vygotsky in the late 1920s and early 1930s, to better understand how montage and the language of cinema worked, and to understand ways of using cinema to teach; to make, in short, the tools and activities of culture available not just for use, but for design--or perhaps better, since tools always find uses beyond the imagination of their designers, to create more affordances to enrich the creative potential of people in society.

Doug Williams
Pilgrim on the Road to Nowhere

 From: Henry G. Shonerd III <hshonerd@gmail.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu> 
Sent: Monday, September 1, 2014 9:07 AM
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Halliday and Vygotsky

Let me start by saying I feel like an imposter taking part in this dialog at all, so new to XMCA and so short on deep knowledge of Vygotsky (though I've tried for many years to get there!) and totally lacking in a knowledge of Halliday, so many years since I have read from his work. Sorry about that. However, I am glad that I weighed in a few days back by introducing Langacker into the conversation and totally appreciate you would respond.

I am sure that your contrast between Halliday and Langacker are well taken, however I think that, for me, the important contrast is not between Langacker and Halliday, but between Langacker and Halliday, on the one side, and Chomsky on the other. This is important for the historical development of linguistics as a discipline, in the U.S. at least, in the same way that William James, and Charles Peirce before James, represented a leap in the development of psychology and philosophy on this side of the waters. I understand that European traditions in philosophy and psychology, more influenced by Marxist thinking, are markedly different from those in the U.S., and that may have something to do with your analysis. However, I think Langacker has much to offer to the XMCA dialog. I am thinking that Langacker is a complement to Halliday, not an adversary.

Langacker and Halliday are semioticians, as was Vygotsky. Chomsky, who has made his reputation by attacking structural linguistics and behavioralism, sees language as an autonomous cognitive module and grammar as autonomous from meaning; with Fodor he sees syntax and meaning as "blind" to one another. Langacker sees externally realized language form as a subset of meaning and language as rooted in all cognitive functioning; in other words, he sees (language-based) semantic space as a subset of symbolic space. Though Langacker doesn't focus on language development, what little he says makes it clearly the result of a dynamic interplay between real language use in context and the developing grammar of the child. Grammar as structure is a reification of the dynamics of mental processing, just as nouns are reifications of verbs. There's a simplicity in his grammatical analysis that I think is of use in understanding the connection between language and
 thinking: Words stand for things, processes and relations. This is in line with what we have all learned about "parts of speech", but Langacker, by construing parts of speech this way, makes grammatical analysis meaningful/semantic, not formalistic. For Langacker, language and meaning are both in the head of the language user and "out there" in the world. I think I get why you find Langacker's comment on each of us "experientially occupying the center of the universe" as Piagetian: egocentric thinking. But, as per Langacker, language reveals our ability to construe "the universe" non-egocentrically. His work in subjectification and objectification is interesting on this score. You are certainly right that Langacker "makes up" his examples of language, but they are good examples and that's how specialists in grammar work. I agree with you that "thick description" has got to be done to understand language, but that's not an argument against introspection.
 His work is in Cognitive Grammar, not the broader discipline of cognitive linguistics. Halliday, I believe, is seen as a scholar of functional linguistics, which is very much compatible with cognitive linguistics. One of the hard problems of cognitive linguistics and Cognitive Grammar is to take on discourse. The work of Bruner on narrative as a foundation for cultural psychology appears to have taken hold in XMCA circles. (An excellent article by Andy Blunden (2010), Narrative and Metaphors tells me so.) I was hoping that Langacker might find favor there too. (Or, I should say here, since I am gratefully part of the circle!)

I'll end by repeating my sense of inadequacy in making the case for Langacker. The article by Merja and her colleagues in Helsinki is evidence that Langacker is of use to others in the CHAT, others that are NOT impostors!

On Sep 1, 2014, at 1:30 AM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

> Martin--
> I think, if you've read "Learning to Mean", you've got the essentials
> (although there is a whole volume of Halliday's Collected Works, with
> a huge CD of the complete Nigel Transcripts that supports this now).
> And you've certainly got the esssential compability between Halliday
> and Vygotsky that is lacking when I read Langacker.
> Firstly, development. Halliday uses real data, from real people. The
> latest work is entirely corpus based. As you can see from Langacker's
> articles, he makes up his data. To me, this means he is all
> explanation and no description.
> Secondly, what develops is free choice. For Halliday, a system is
> essentially paradigmatic, like Vygotsky's description of thinking in
> Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech. A grammatical choice like tense
> or polarity is in essence a crossroads; it's a place where you can
> turn left or right (and sometimes go straight, but for the choices to
> be manageable to a human mind, they need to be fairly few). Langacker
> doesn't see this: his way of handling complexity is not to give us
> systems within systems but instead to give us superhuman powers of
> access and activation (essentially, superhuman powers of empathy). But
> as Vygotsky says in HDHMF, the concept of the development of higher
> mental functions, the concept of cultural behavior, and the concept of
> the development of self control are essentially one and the same
> concept.
> Thirdly, both Halliday and Vygotsky are Marxists, and they both insist
> on a dialectical concept of development. I don't see this in Langacker
> at all--instead, I see rather Piagetian remarks, like "Experientially,
> each of us occupies the very centre of our universe, from which we
> apprehend the world around us." Halliday is always interrogating
> function about structure, and history about function. Langacker is
> mosly interrogating made up examples.
> I don't want to say that there are NO differences to be reconciled
> between Halliday and Vygotsky. The most obvious difference, though, is
> the least useful: Halliday talks of metafunctions that are made up of
> grammatical systems, while Vygotsky wants us to accept that
> psychological systems are made up of functions. I think this
> difference is actually uninteresting, because when Vygotsky uses the
> word "function" he's talking about choices (i.e. Halliday's systems)
> and when Vygotsky uses the term "system" he's talking about
> interfunctional relations (i.e. Halliday's metafunctions).
> A more substantial difference is that Halliday sees the grammatical
> system as being revolutionized during child development, while the
> semantics are basically stable. Vygotsky sees speech as
> revolutionizing thinking as well.
> Finally, I think Halliday would reject the idea that Vygotsky argues
> in Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech--that thinking (that is, the
> ideational metafunction, the representative function of speech)
> happens somehow on an inner plane, which is then projected onto a
> plane of "inner speech (that is, Rheme and New in the textual
> metafunction) and then realized as "outer speech" (Halliday's
> interpersonal metafunction).
> For Hallliday, ideation, textualization, and interpersonalization
> exist in thinking as well as in speech and at every point along the
> way; they must be variously represented whenever we speak, and however
> we do it, and at clause level they are mapped onto each other (as
> transitivity, information structure, and mood). But the very fact that
> Halliday, unlike Langacker, separates clause structure into these
> three metafunctions, and that these three metafunctions (the
> ideational, the textual, and the interpersonal) correspond very
> precisely to "Thinking", "and" and "Speech" tells you quite a bit
> about the latent affinities between Halliday and Vygotsky, there to be
> brought out..
> In practical terms, Halliday's sociology is not just Marxist but
> Bernsteinian: if we really do not accept that language has a
> potentially liberating effect, then we have to accept that it is also
> has a potentially crippling effect. Interestingly, this was Stalin's
> position against Marr and Vygotsky: language is not part of the
> superstructure, it is part of the base.
> My own view is that both are right--language viewed from economic
> activity is superstructure, but language viewed from ontogenesis is
> base.  So if we do not accept that that parent language has an effect
> on a child's code and therefore on his or herl classpirations (pardon
> my portmanteau), then we can conclude only either a) we already live
> in a classless society (Leontiev), or b) language is more afterthought
> than aperitif (Piaget).
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies