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[Xmca-l] Re: The Ideal and Nicaraguan Sign Language

How would you explain then, Carol, how the Nicaraguan children managed to acquire such a sophisticated language in a couple of generations?
Are elements of language implicit in social practices? How does it happen?
*Andy Blunden*

Carol Macdonald wrote:

I am sorry it took me so long to read the post - I am with Tomasello on this. I don't think this is evidence for LAD. The LAD has very specific reference to universal parameters, and the history of theoretical linguistics in the last 55 years or so has had to step back and back to parameter setting so the "universals" are more and more abstract. Perhaps a linguist on the site could resolve what they are now. Phonology has the most developed set. And how does this relate to communication per se? Can anybody help? Even the notion of verb-ness and noun-ness as universals are contested.

Pidgins arise when people have a need to communicate; then they become creoles. The children and their caretakers had such a need. We have no idea how abstract, or signified, when this first began.

In South Africa this happened when mineworkers from all over South Africa needed to have a common form of communication. It has never developed to a creole, because the speakers have their own Bantu languages, and the need underground is so specific and restricted that there has been no further development.

ISN has had a very strong motivation to develop. Creoles do become languages - Jamaican is a case in point. In my situation, Afrikaans can be regarded as creoloid, where the mother language - Dutch has been simplified. The Afrikaners historically has access to the Bible in High Dutch, but we know the Bible deals with a wide range of concepts, so Afrikaans has had to take on board scientific concepts. There is generally a "correct" Afrikaans term, and a related word which can be regarded as closer to English. Both are included in their lexicon. The latter characteristic is part of language planning/development per se.

Perhaps I have seen so much in a multi-linguistic environment, that I see this as more fluid. I think this is enough for me now - can someone respond?


On 14 October 2014 02:46, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Mike has drawn our attention to the Nicaraguan Sign Language
    as a counter-example to Vygostsky's claim:

       "that if no appropriate ideal form can be found in the environment,
       and the development of the child, for whatever reasons, has to take
       place outside these specific conditions (described earlier), i.e.
       without any interaction with the final form, then this proper form
       will fail to develop properly in the child."

    In my opinion, this once-in-human-history event does not
    invalidate the principle Vygotsky was elaborating. Just like every
    attempt to say what distinguishes the human being from the animal
    seems to be faulted by the latest clip from YouTube, all such
    absolute claims are almost bound to fail at some point. But the
    principle, illustrated by the fact that children growing up in
    Russia speak Russian and understand the meaning of perezhivanie
    whereas we don't, etc., is hardly faulted by NSL.

    The other thing that Mike suggests is that the principle of the
    ideal being present in the environment carries with it the
    negation of the idea of the social formation itself being subject
    to continuous change. Again, I think Vygotsky just takes this as
    outside the concerns of Psychology. His essay on Socialist Man
    shows that in fact he saw the psychology of people as primarily
    determined by the social formation of which they were a part and
    he saw that social formation as evolving. He was of course a
    modern, albeit I suspect a modern with a considerable capacity for

    Now, this raises the difficult question of what Vygotsky may have
    meant by "ideal." Or, what he thought is a mystery, but what
    should *we* understand by ideality? It is well known that Vygotsky
    was surrounded by a number of fellows who were aficionados of
    Hegelianism, even if Vygotsky himself had never studied Hegel, so
    it is fair to suggest that the Hegelian concept of the Ideal is
    relevant in this context, of reconciling "ideal" as the norm in a
    given social formation and "ideal" as the notion of infinite,
    historical perfectability. For Hegel, "ideality" expresses both
    these principles; that is, that any relation contains within it a
    "gap" which makes it open to perfectability, and that "gap" is
    ever present, and its existence expresses what Hegel calls The
    Idea, that is to say, the ever-unfolding spirit of human freedom.
    Etc. It only requires that the Idea is present for any relation to
    be mutable. This is deep and challenging philosophical stuff which
    we don't really need, if we can just accept that "the ideal" does
    not mean something fixed and final, just an evolving norm:
    ever-shifting goal posts.


-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    *Andy Blunden*

Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
Developmental psycholinguist
Academic, Researcher, and Editor Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa