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[Xmca-l] Re: Halliday and Vygotsky
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- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Halliday and Vygotsky
- From: Douglas Williams <email@example.com>
- Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2014 20:04:02 -0700
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Given my work, which is less concerned with theory than action dominated by deadlines, and which tends more toward serial communications than polyphonic, I probably miss half of what's going on. But this is a fun topic. I did finally catch up with the fact that there were two Langacker papers in play, and that I could read them. I found what I was looking for in them, related to the foundation of a shared ontology as the prerequisite to communication. That shared ontology is both cultural and environmental, but without it being shared--in the sense of people familiar with each other's experience and activity--the encryption key that makes communication possible would not be there.
Elliptic Coordination P.11
With certain qualifications, I take it as already being in place for both the speaker and the
hearer. It is important not to embrace the simplistic notion that the speaker merely encodes,
going from meaning to sounds, while the hearer merely decodes, going from sounds to meaning.
The CG position is rather that both interlocutors engage in coding, the process by which a set of
linguistic units are activated as the conventional basis for apprehending (or participating in) a
usage event, comprising an expression’s full contextual understanding paired with its finegrained
phonetic manifestation. The activated units constitute the expression’s linguistic
structure. In the ideal case—at best only approximated in actual practice—the interlocutors wind
up activating the same symbolic units, agreeing on both the expression used and how it relates to
the target conception. When they use an expression successfully, their scope of awareness and
focus of attention with respect to the target are momentarily aligned.
Viewed in global terms, the interlocutors proceed in tandem through the target, each
expression serving to access, and if need be to augment or modify, certain portions of it. The
ease and success of this intersubjective journey depend on how extensively their conceptual
substrates overlap to begin with. And since the substrate includes the ongoing discourse and its
current state, the overlap is generally quite substantial even in regard to the target. It is not a
matter of the speaker starting with a full target conception and the listener with none at all: at a
given point in the discourse both interlocutors know what has been said and have some idea of
what is likely to come. The speaker, at least, must entertain some version of the target before
expressing it. How far in advance the projection is made is highly variable, 6 and it is subject to
modification as the discourse proceeds. In any case, the hearer also makes this projection and can
often anticipate much if not all of what is coming. The content conveyed is commonly already
known to both interlocutors. Typically they alternate in the speaker and hearer roles. Moreover,
each simulates the other’s role, the hearer imagining what the speaker might say, and the speaker
estimating how the hearer will apprehend it. So whoever takes the initiative at a given moment,
discourse is an intersubjective process of co-construction.
In short, communication depends on Bruner's card trick: Shared culture and experience. yuo dkinf probd bjy udndrdstnd whtd I'dn wridtying her even thoguty i am ndibt wruidyuing uindglish, bdducase we ghav a shr87rd sedse ofy landgyuae and readug xeopreruebce.
And to illustrate the idea further, I offer a parallel yet linked idea, from David Auerbach, "The Stupidity of Computers, in Machine Politics, issue 13. It is darn hard for human-computer interactions to be meaningful,because simply processing things does not create a shared meaningful context. Computers are not in our world. Computers have no context of embodied experience in a shared environment, which makes human embodied and sociocultural experience (filled with hot, messy emotive and other embodied perspectives) very difficult to emulate through computers, no matter how much computing power you throw at it. I think that is rather a proof of Spinoza's point--that mind and body cannot be divided--and that is something that I think Langacker, Vygotsky, and Spinoza all share--though perhaps the language in which each express it--a language derived from the subcultures in which each operates--perhaps obscures the commonality.
The Stupidity of Computers
The Stupidity of Computers
Computers are near-omnipotent cauldrons of processing power, but they re also stupid. They are the undisputed chess champions of the world, but they can...
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From: David Kellogg <email@example.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, September 5, 2014 5:16 PM
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Halliday and Vygotsky
Thanks for that, Henry. I hope Langacker wasn't as peeved as he
sounded: I don't think I ever suggested that corpora were a
prerequisite for serious scholarship. The problem is that unserious
scholars like myself have to work with real people and real data or we
can't hold down our jobs, and in fact when I read Langacker it does
seem to me to make a difference.
The obvious example is elision. Langacker uses examples like:
"Ann came with and Bob without a date."
My examples look more like this:
T: Today is Tory's birthday. Let's buy a present for Tory. For
example, I like a big white dog. What do I like?
S: White dog.
T: Big or small?
S: Big white dog.
You can see that this kind of elision is much better understood as
Halliday understands it--that is, as a cohesive device which works
interpersonally. "Big" is understood by omitting it, but that omission
is ambiguous to the teacher (for good reasons--it's very unlikely that
the child omits the indefinite article because it is understood, for
example). So she insists on re-inserting it.
On Vygotsky's Spinozism, which is somewhat controversial on this list.
I'm busy editing our first volume of Vygotsky's lectures on pedology,
and I have to write summarizing notes. Usually I just cheat and split
each section into four sections, because Koreans often form study
groups of around four people, and this makes it a little easier to
"read and report". Most of Vygotsky's writings have the structure of a
river anyway: you break into it and try to dam it at your peril, and
any attempt to impose some kind of PPT order on the raging torrent of
ideas is obviously arbitrary and will not last. But these lecturese
are a little different: Vygotsky is being pedagogical, and he orders
his material pretty rigorously.
One of the things Vygotsky likes to do is to present "four basic laws"
with "corollaries". I assumed that this was part of his training as a
lawyer at Petrograd University (and of course he does like to use
words that have legal connotations--so for example, the word he uses
for "action" is not "activity" but something like "act" in the sense
of a legal deed). But the corollaries seem to me to be straight from
Spinoza's "Ethics", a book which really haunts every paragraph of the
"Teaching on Emotions".
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
On 5 September 2014 09:17, Henry G. Shonerd III <email@example.com> wrote:
> Hi All,
> I would like to respond to some the comments by David on September 1 to help in determining just how compatible Langacker and Halliday are, but first address references to Chomsky.
> David states, "...it was Chomsky who made the case that communication
>> is not, in the course of a normal adult day, the main function of
>> language: the preponderance of inner speech over externalized speech…"
> In his 2008 Cognitive Grammar (p. 459), Langacker agrees with Chomsky, then expands on the idea with something Vygotsky and Bakhtin could have said:
> ""It is generally accepted that the conversational use of language is primary. It is not the most frequent: the award fort sheer prevalence goes to the silent verbal thought we engage in a at most every moment of our waking lives…In no small measure, our verbal thought takes the form of imagined dialog if only with ourselves."
> It is with Chomsky, the "insufferable formalist" as per David, that Langacker takes issue. Langacker, after some years as an expert and purveyor of (Chomsky's) generative grammar, found THAT enterprise anything but generative and began, with others, work in Cognitive Grammar, whose fundamental claim is that grammar is SYMBOLIC, hence meaningful, even at its most schematic. I think it would be fair to say that Langacker, and others, embarked on the kind of "Romantic Science" Andy Blunden describes in his article Is Science a Humanity? (on his website, sorry I don't have a date), unshackled by premature formalisms motivated by the desire for discreteness and predictability in a phenomenon (language) that is, to say the least, rich and messy.
> As far as the compatibility of Langacker and Halliday, here is what Langacker had to say when he read David's comments:
> I am not at all qualified to enter into any detailed consideration of how my work relates to Vygotsky. Nor do I care to enter into any competition with Halliday as to which approach is the best fit. I appreciate your defense of my approach in this regard and do not find any fault with it. Let me offer just a few brief comments.
> Much of my work in recent years, but little yet accessible in publications, is devoted to topics and idea that bring CG into closer alignment with Halliday and addess perceived gaps in previous formulations—notions like semantic functions and systems, and the continuum between grammar and discourse. I should note that these are not changes in the CG framework, but merely the elaboration of aspects of it that were previously in the background.
> I should also note that those who criticize CG seldom have very much exposure to it, and there is a strong tendency to translate the selective nature of what has been presented thus far into rigid limitations in principle. I can only say, stay tuned.
> Corpus work is essential for many purposes, but not for others, and requiring it as a precondition for serious scholarship (a notable tendency these days) is simplistic to say the least.
> In any case, I admit to these and many other limitations, and appreciate that my work is at least being discussed in these broader contexts.
> I hope you will take this not as airing dirty laundry, but to encourage openness to new ideas, ideas very much in the spirit of Vygotsky, Bakhtin and Halliday, and particularly the work of Vera John-Steiner in her book Creative Collaboration (2000). Her book is infused with research on complementarity and dialog in the creative work of artists and scientists on the edge of what the human mind can accomplish.
> I was very heartened that David enjoyed the two articles by Langacker, though for myself, I find them tough going for the density of thought, evidence that others in the XMCA circle might, let me say would, be better at the hard work of blending Halliday and Langacker. Of course, that is exactly the work that Langacker is committed to, but he is not part of the XMCA circle. Thirty years ago, when I did my dissertation on second language acquisition, I could find nothing of use in Chomsky on how language (L1 or L2) develops and found Langacker's Cognitive Grammar of great use to me. Vygotsky, through Vera, was the other major theoretical base for my work. Thirty years on, after a career in teacher education at a liberal arts college that did not require publications, I am taking up the work again, having found that that blending of Vygtosky and Cognitive Grammar has not been part of the work of XMCA, the foremost dialog of thinkers on Vygotsky.
> By the way, I didn't know that Vygotsky was a "militant Spinozist", but was very glad to hear it. I have a love for Spinoza, whose life narrative seems so much like Vygotsky's in ways that matter to me. Thanks to David for making my day.
> Stay tuned.
> On Sep 1, 2014, at 4:42 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> Of course, BOTH Huw and Mike are right. A "respectable" guru is really
>> another name for a fellow student (cue Brahms's "Academic Overture"
>> and another round of Weizenbier). But what gets handed down, at least
>> according to Vygotsky, is neither word nor deed (the original Goethe
>> reference, after all, is Mephistophelian!). It's the stern injunction
>> that when you get handed a deed, that's just the beginning.
>> That said, I enjoyed both Langacker articles a lot, and I particularly
>> liked reading the account of ellipsis, since I work with a lot of
>> elliptical data (children who ride parasitically on the clause grammar
>> of the teacher). I also appreciated the obvious continuity to Chafe,
>> whose work on intonation and the encoding of time I highly prize.
>> Finally, I congratulate anyone who managed to read to the end of my
>> last screed--and of course I apologize for the error: what I meant to
>> say was that if we really DO accept that language has a potentially
>> liberating effect on classpirations (either ensuring class mobility or
>> placing us "in but not of" class society) then we have to accept its
>> potentially crippling effect as well.
>> Let me just say a word about adversarial polemics and what I think is
>> the underlying issue, that is, intellectual insecurity. When I was new
>> to the list, now more than a decade ago, I was a little irked by
>> Mike's pastoral role; it seemed to me that whenever the rumpus
>> appeared about to get interesting, Mike would intervene with a "Now,
>> calm down, children!", and the excitement would dissipate. I think I
>> once pointed out to him that Vygotsky himself was a pretty strident
>> polemicist. I have now, in the course of translating Vygotsky, read
>> him a little more carefully, and I realize that although Vygotsky
>> never actually agrees with anybody (not even himself), he also never
>> entirely disagrees with anybody either; indeed he is apt to find very
>> positive and very useful things in the most unlikely places: Bergson,
>> James, Husserl, Herbart, and even (though he is a militant Spinozist)
>> Descartes. Vygotsky just doesn't ever have the intellectual insecurity
>> required for unmitigated contempt.
>> All of which is preamble to something I never thought I would write
>> this side of the grave: Andy is really not altogether wrong in his
>> defense of Descartes, and Chomsky too, although insufferably
>> formalist, idealist, yea, explicitly Cartesian, has something to offer
>> us. In particular, it was Chomsky who made the case that communication
>> is not, in the course of a normal adult day, the main function of
>> language: the preponderance of inner speech over externalized speech
>> must be something like the preponderance of oral speech over writing,
>> and we will only really have a scientific linguistics when we learn to
>> take inner speech as the model just as modern linguists now take oral
>> speech as the model. Oral speech, you see, is a deed, and as Vygotsky
>> says, a deed is only a commencement.
>> David Kellogg
>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>> On 2 September 2014 07:01, Huw Lloyd <email@example.com> wrote:
>>> Surely any respectable guru should be handing down the the deed rather than
>>> the word? :)
>>> On 1 September 2014 18:56, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>> We are students, here, Henry. An imposter would someone who poses as a guru
>>>> who hands down THE WORD, not one who seeks to understand.
>>>> I believe that among many important distinctions David introduced, the
>>>> emphasis on development, on change over time, is an important
>>>> differentiator among scholarly traditions under discussion. We imagine we
>>>> see many affinities, locally, among (for example) the DCOG approach of Ed
>>>> Hutchins and his colleagues and LCHC folks. But was also see our different
>>>> emphases on development as a difference that makes a difference -- a topic
>>>> of ongoing discussion and exploration.
>>>> There are many such in David's recent posts.
>>>> On Mon, Sep 1, 2014 at 9:07 AM, Henry G. Shonerd III <email@example.com>
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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,
>>>>> 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
>>>>> made his reputation by attacking structural linguistics and
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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",
>>>>> Langacker, by construing parts of speech this way, makes grammatical
>>>>> analysis meaningful/semantic, not formalistic. For Langacker, language
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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
>>>>> "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
>>>>> 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
>>>>> that Langacker is of use to others in the CHAT, others that are NOT
>>>>> On Sep 1, 2014, at 1:30 AM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>>>> 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
>>>>>> 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