Re: ZPD/Chaiklin and Vygotsky/Bakhtin

From: Vera Steiner (
Date: Wed Jan 14 2004 - 16:51:30 PST

The issue of imitation is an important one in language acquisition. The fact
that young speakers construct utterances which are not imitations of what
they hear--like "all gone, Daddy" has resulted, during the early phases of
LA studies, in rejecting the behaviorist notion of reinforced imitation as
the basis of language learning. Since then imitation has re-emerged as one
of the mechanisms of learning; many data bases include examples of
imitation as a source for analysis for young learners, who check their
intonation against a remembered utterance, they experiment with taking an
imitated longer utterance apart
(longer than what they are producing without imitation) and they recombin
the utterance in new ways. Imitation when combined with experimentation can
be thought of as a source of zpd.In other words a scaffolded utterance when
it is worked on independently by the young speaker provides the basis for
his or her sustained language development

These comments have been provoked in part by the imitation discussion and in
part by a visit with my 2-year old grandson.


---- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Smagorinsky" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 8:44 AM
Subject: Re: ZPD/Chaiklin and Vygotsky/Bakhtin

> David, I'm not sure how to cite it, except as an email message. If time
> allows I'll develop it into something else, but haven't yet found the
> I'm wondering if imitation has a slightly different meaning in Russian
> English--Mike, Eugene, others, can you help us with this one?
> I remember resisting my reading of Vygotsky's ideas on imitation initially
> because of my own instantiations of imitation as rigid and mimetic, which
> in our constructivist mindset suggests simple reproduction of form rather
> than reconstruction. At the same time, I think of Benjamin Franklin's
> autobiographical endorsement of imitation in his learning to write:
> At about this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. . . . I
> bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I
> the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it....
> This, he says, is how he learned to write well.
> The problem comes when in school imitation (e.g., imitating models of
> writing) is accompanied by nothing procedural which allows for
> appropriation of something conceptual. Reproduction, rather than
> reconstruction, becomes the goal.
> Peter
> At 09:06 AM 1/14/2004 -0600, you wrote:
> >Peter,
> >Pity the theoretical excerpt was not included in the article. I find the
> >section on imitation very useful, and would like to cite it. Can you
> >suggest to me how APA might want me to do this (or give me whatever
> >elements might need to be included in the citation of this unpublished
> >work)? Also, please share any further insight you might have on the
> >seemingly contradictory proposal that "Imitation, in contrast to the
> >mimetic habituation involved in training, is part of what Vygotsky [1987]
> >calls 'instruction' in which one learns something 'fundamentally new' (p.
> >210). I'm intrigued by Van der Veer and Valsiner (1991) reading of
> >Vygotsky that "'children are capable of intellectual, insightful
> >imitation.' (pp. 344-345)."
> >Thanks.
> >David Kirshner
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Peter
> > Smagorinsky
> > <smago who-is-at coe.uga.ed To:
> >
> > u> cc: (bcc: David H
> > Kirshner/dkirsh/LSU)
> > Subject: Re:
> > and Vygotsky/Bakhtin
> > 01/14/2004
> > 05:22
> > AM
> >
> > Please respond
> > to
> > xmca
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >At 06:00 PM 1/14/2004 +0700, you wrote: A question based on the article
> >that might be worthwhile pursuing once the discussion of Paul's paper has
> >subsided is based on Mike's observation of the underplaying of the idea
> >imitation. What is the "special" meaning that LSV attaches to the word
> >imitation?
> >
> >For the article I recently attached on learning to teach the
> >
> >theme, we had originally written the attached theoretical section, which
> >the reviewers recommended that we eliminate as irrelevant to the study.
> >I've set it aside for potential use later, but it relates to Vygotsky's
> >beliefs about imitation in relation to his discussion of the zpd and may
> >contribute to a consideration of Phil's question. Peter(See attached
> >The Zone of Proximal Development.doc)(See attached file: The Zone of
> >Proximal Development.doc)
> >

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