Re: [xmca] LCA: AA Leontiev and Landolf/Thorne question

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Mon Jul 04 2005 - 20:10:09 PDT

Thanks for responding, Gordon.
I have been trying to track back through the discussion both in June and
July and it is not an easy manner to identify a message that has been
overlooked in responding to a current one. Perhaps when referring to an
earliler note (if possible!) posters could identify the date when the note
being referred to was sent, or simply enclose below. I will also see if we
can form a group at LCHC to try to synthesize where the discussion on
various points has gotten to as a means of allowing us to cummulate
productive results of our individual, asynchronous efforts.
 From the note below, you nail an issue that continually confuses me: when
"activity" is being used in a technical sense and when it is being used
in "the very general sense of different culturally recognized actions that
succeed each other in daily life." This is what tripped me up on reading
AA Leontiev's piece for this discussion.
 I went back to search under G. Wells for a note that contained the
ruminations you referred to, but could not figure out the referent of your
good advice!

 On 7/4/05, Gordon Wells <> wrote:
> Mike just reacted to A.A. Leontyev as follows:
> In seeking to figure out activity-language relations, a question I keep
> coming up against
> is what is meant by phrases such as
> "As far as psychology is concerned, speech is identical to any other
> activity" (p. 1 of AA Leontiev)
> or the phrase, "communicative activity." I know this is an old issue in
> Russian (at least Soviet) arguments about activity
> and Language. But it appears important to this discussion as well.
> I can understand how seeking to acquire a second language could be
> considered an activity (at least I think I do), but acquisition
> of a first language let alone using language in a case is "Mr Smith is not
> working today, he is out mowing the lawn" both seem
> questionable as candidates for activities.
> I entirely agree: neither learning nor using one's 'native' language is
> an activity in the sense in which A,N.L. defines activity. In fact, in my
> view it is rarely even a goal-oriented action. When it comes to second
> language learning, the answer is less clear-cut. Krashen distinguishes
> between acquisition and learning - the former similar to learning a first
> language and the latter similar to learning to write (cf. Vygotsky on second
> language learning and learning to read and write as volitional, conscious
> 'activities' in chap 6. of Thinking and Speech). But whether deliberately
> learning a second language is an activity in A.N.L.'s terms is
> questionable. I am deliberately trying to learn Spanish so that I can
> interact with Spanish speakers and writers, but if and when I am able to do
> so, my use of Spanish will be somewhere between sub-action and operation
> within some more overarching activity. For the moment, I certainly engage in
> learning actions, using grammar books, dictionaries, CDs, as artifacts that
> mediate my deliberate learning. But I would hesitate to call my learning an
> activity in its own right. Part of the problem in answering your question,
> Mike, is the fact that 'activity' may be used with the technical meaning, as
> in A.N.L.'s theory, but also in the very general sense of different
> culturally recognized actions that succeed each other in daily life, such as
> taking a shower, getting breakfast, driving to work, etc.
> Gordon
> --
> Gordon Wells
> Dept of Education,
> UC Santa Cruz.

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