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[Xmca-l] Re: The Social and the Semiotic

Hello David, I have an applied linguistics background too. My first
acquaintance with the term "sociocultural" was in the work of H Stern who
described sociocultural factors in language learning and teaching. I do
feel a bit strange that "sociocultural" appears to be interchangeable
with "cultural-historical" when people talk about Vygotsky and his



*James Ma*  *https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa

On 25 June 2017 at 23:09, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

> A few years ago there was a minor theoretical kerfuffle at the
> International Congress of Systemic Functional Linguistics in Vancouver.
> Systemic Functional Linguists tend to be gentle, ruminant creatures, who
> frown on intellectual prize fighting (building "vertical" intellectual
> structures, like building chemistry on physics and biology on chemistry, is
> the goal rather than building "horizontal" knowledge structures like
> competing fields of sociology, psychology, cognitive science). But they
> also prize delicacy and like to make fine distinctions that account
> exhaustively for data (e.g. vocabulary is treated as nothing but most
> delicate grammar, and grammar as most general forms of vocabulary, hence
> the use of "words" for the latter and "wording" for the former).
> Accounting exhaustively for language as a social-semiotic phenomenon
> usually involves a delicate distinction between the social and the
> semiotic, something like the distinction between physics and chemistry on
> the one hand and biology on the other. But Jim Martin argued that semiotic
> activity does not occur independent of social activity and vice versa, so,
> by Occam's razor, the terms are redundant and the hyphen superfluous.
> Surely the distinction between social behavior and meaningful behavior is
> nothing like the distinction between animate and inanimate, sentient and
> non-sentient, carbon-based self-replicating matter and inorganic compounds.
> Yesterday, we went whale watching out of Sydney Harbour. The Southwest
> Pacitic humpback community, which numbers between thirty and forty
> thousand, spends the summer (that is, your winter) months in Antarctica
> feeding on krill and small fish; they have an ingenious method of feeding
> called bubble-netting which takes about 27 years for a whale to learn. It's
> a lot like Leontiev's description of a primitive hunt: twelve whales work
> together to emit a circle of small bubbles encircling the prey, and
> gradually shaping it into a tall cylinder about thirty metres in diameter.
> When the krill kill is shaped in this way, the dinner table is set. The
> whales just sluice up and down through the cylinder with their baleen
> plates agape, raking in thousands of fish and/or tiny crustaceans with each
> pass.
> But then they embark on the road trip which brings them past Sydney Harbour
> and to points further north. The migration lasts many months, during which
> the whales do not eat at all. Even mothers, who have to produce about 40
> litres of whale milk daily, fast the whole six months. I noticed that the
> whales we saw were always in groups of two or three and I wondered to the
> marine biologist on board if whales worked in small communities in
> Antarctica but then went on holidays in nuclear families. She pointed out
> that these dyads and triads were all the same size and gender. "They're
> just mates," she said.
> She also said that the study of whale songs is being "de-anthropmorphized":
> it was previously believed that since they vary much like languages, with
> regional dialects and some "multilingualism", they must have an economic
> function in feeding, a sexual function in mating, or a political function
> in establishing male dominance (no easy feat, because females are
> polyandrous and rather larger than males). None of this is the case: whales
> sing when they aren't feeding, when they aren't mating, and when they
> aren't fighting: they just like to sing. And in fact the four-tone songs
> vary more like pop-tunes than like regional dialects or functional
> registers.
> Now, when the kerfuffle broke out between Halliday and Martin in Vancouver,
> Halliday pointed to ants as a species who were social but not semiotic
> (there is no reason to believe that "meaning" as distinct from molecular
> biology is at stake). You might think the Southwest Pacific humpback
> community is a good counter example, since they clearly have both social
> and semiotic activity. But it seems to me exactly the opposite: they are a
> clear example that social activity is goal oriented in one way, and
> semiotic activity is goal oriented in quite a different way. I have never
> liked using the term socio-cultural to describe Vygotsky's theory (it is
> the term generally used in my own field of applied linguistics) because I
> thought it was redundant; now I am not so sure.
> --
> David Kellogg
> Macquarie University
> "The Great Globe and All Who It Inherit:
> Narrative and Dialogue in Story-telling with
> Vygotsky, Halliday, and Shakespeare"
> Free Chapters Downloadable at:
> https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/2096-the-great-
> globe-and-all-who-it-inherit.pdf
> Recent Article: Thinking of feeling: Hasan, Vygotsky, and Some Ruminations
> on the Development of Narrative in Korean Children
> Free E-print Downloadable at:
> http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8Vaq4HpJMi55DzsAyFCf/full