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[Xmca-l] The systemic perspective vs the use perspective vs the knowledge perspective


In my snuffling about on Losonksy, I found this interesting proceeding from 2009, "What Can We Learn From Bad Arguments?" This article is very well written, nice and clear.

Apparently Losonksy embraces the historical development of language, but as a series of bad arguments that are later corrected, which later are discovered as bad arguments that are later corrected, and so on, while keeping the dualistic positions of system and use perspectives of language intact. He uses the dialectic between the two positions as a pedagogical tool (which we learn at the end of the paper).

What he misses, however, is the notion of the social as a location for all the things that go missing in these two positions on language, the systemic and the use arguments. That is, how we come to know these arguments.

What I mean is this:

A structure of a language can only exist from practicing the language and conventions forming over time. This might be classified as Historical as in Capital H. The more formal aspects of language over longer periods of time.

A use of a language can only exist from practicing the language and conventions forming over time. ?This might be classified as historical as in Lower-case h. The more ephemeral aspects of language over spontaneous periods of time.

None of these perspectives and what they offer us can occur at all without humans being in the world interacting with one another. They cannot exist without us there, knowing them and practicing and practicing our languages, in the sense I am right now practicing the language each time I make a post here on XMCA, for example.

That is why I was baffled at his rejection of the third perspective, as indicated by Robert Stainton, called the knowledge perspective. Losonsky states:

"In Linguistic Turns I ignored this perspective. I believe that this perspective is a subordinate issue that divides along lines that divide the system and use perspectives. On the one side is systematic knowledge of language and on the other side is practical knowledge, or knowhow, that is used in coming to know what? particular speakers say on a given occasion." (p 1-2)

How can Losonsky even write that sentence if there is no knowledge perspective?

What he doesn't see (which is clear as day to me) is that the knowledge perspective requires both system and use perspectives to function, and can only arise in a social setting of learning, specifically the ZPD!?

Neither side wins because neither side considers the other side in a socio-historical reality. Is that fair to say? (Culture is also in there, but for simplicity I am setting that to the side, because by setting the social aside, he loses culture too).

The knowledge perspective seems to me to say: We can only use the language that we know. Furthermore, we come to know that language from learning it from a capable other, who in turn learned from a capable other, and so on through an historical environment (or by using language with a capable peer in spontaneous circumstances of speech opportunities arising in any given moment).

For me, this also involves the given and the new and how these combine to create meaning in a particular environment in space and time, i.e., meaning arising in a context.

I will be ambulating over to Robert Stainton's work at some point... anyone care to join me?

Kind regards,


Attachment: Losonsky_What Can We Learn From Bad Arguments_2009.pdf
Description: Losonsky_What Can We Learn From Bad Arguments_2009.pdf