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[Xmca-l] Re: The Ideal and Nicaraguan Sign Language
- To: Carol Macdonald <email@example.com>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The Ideal and Nicaraguan Sign Language
- From: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 01:08:04 +1100
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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?
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
On 14 October 2014 02:46, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Carol A Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
Academic, Researcher, and Editor
Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa