Rather than attempt to explicate Halliday's views myself, I suggest
you go to his Towards a Language-based Theory of Learning (on xmca)
and look particularly at Features 12-13 and 18-21. A key phrase is
"reconstituting language means reconstituting reality".
Interestingly, Vygotsky says something of the same kind in Tool and
Sign in the Development of the Child (Collected Works, Vol 6 pp.
14-25). Discussing the effect of the development of speech on
'practical activity', he writes:
The child's use of tools resembles the tool activity of apes only
while the child is at the pre-speech stage of development. As soon as
speech and the use of symbolic signs are included in the
manipulation, it is transformed completely, superseding the former
natural laws and engendering for the first time properly human forms
of using tools.....
These observations bring us to the conclusion that the child solves a
practical problem not only with his eyes and hands, but also with the
help of speech. ....
The history of speech, flowing in the process of practical activity,
is connected with profound reconstructions of the whole behavior of
Halliday's explication seems to me to be very similar in its overall
thrust. But it is much more specific in explaining how developments
in the child's control of the resources of language, both spoken and
written, make possible the "reconstituting of reality" and thus
his/her "whole behavior".
-- Gordon Wells Dept of Education, http://education.ucsc.edu/faculty/gwells UC Santa Cruz. firstname.lastname@example.org
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