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

I suggest that people pause to check out the phenomenon of  Nicaraguan
Sign, and that someone with linguistic sophistication and knowledge of the
case join the discussion. The
basic facts can be found at

Googling Senghas Nicaraguan Sign Language will turn up a lot. Vygotsy
seemed to be saying that left to themselves, a group of deaf kids would not
invent a language. These kids do.

BUT, as Julian (?) pointed out, these kids, while cut off from the language
of the adults who brought them together (LSV did not specify the conditions
of such a gathering), even the sign language which was
Spanish/finger-spelled, literacy derived, they do, OVER GENERATIONSj of
kids coming to the center, form a more and more complex communication
system that now,. several generations later, looks a whole lot like a
normal language.

Where is the ideal form that is the end in the beginning? That is the

I do not know the answer. However, from other evidence collected by
Goldin-Meadow and others, I believe that the "ideal form" a culturally
organized form of life IS there at the beginning for the kids in their
social environment, including the organization of their own joint
activities together outside of the purview of adults. This latter
interpretation is discussed  in a textbook by wife and I wrote and
elsewhere. I can send the summary of that bit of amateur
speculation/inference if the topic of the centrality of the end being in
the beginning, and LSV's analysis of that topic in the article we are
reading, is of interest.

LSV is not "proven wrong" by this case. The complexity of the issue,
however, is certainly easier to grasp.
PS-- There is fascinating work by my colleague, Carol Padden, on another
such case in the Negev desert that is a few generations old and for which
the entire genetic mapping from the initial deaf originator as the language
grows and spreads in the community is part of the research. The grammar of
the language is unlike either Hebrew or Arabic, the two languages that
exist in the environment of these people.

On Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 7:08 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> Carol Macdonald wrote:
>> Hi
>> 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?
>> Carol
>> 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
>>     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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
>>     http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1930/socialism.htm
>>     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
>>     irony.
>>     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
>>     --     ------------------------------------------------------------
>> ------------
>>     *Andy Blunden*
>>     http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>     <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>> --
>> Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
>> Developmental psycholinguist
>> Academic, Researcher,  and Editor Honorary Research Fellow: Department of
>> Linguistics, Unisa

It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.