RE: [xmca] LCA - Hasan: Words, Meaning, Speech?

From: Kristen R. Clark (
Date: Thu Jul 07 2005 - 11:24:23 PDT

Phil - Thanks for the Painter snippet. It seems to me that Painter and Vygotsky make complementary claims suggesting that meaning and even the beginnings of word meaning develop prior to the emergence of individual words and grammar, but the question of infant speech and communication is still murky. On the Vygotsky quote - Chukovsky's work which makes a similar argument to Vygotsky that something very wonderful happens around 2 years of age.

Per your colleague's email - it's interesting to think about our own experiences with infants in relation to the theories we are currently addressing. There are seminars here in the states that teach parents to introduce signing to their young infants but I haven't looked up the theoretical underpinnings of "baby sign language" until now. I found this article but haven't read it yet - Acredolo is from UCDavis I think.

Goodwyn, S. W. & Acredolo, L. P.  (1993). Symbolic gesture versus word:  Is there a modality advantage for onset of symbol use?   Child Development , 64, 688-701.


Kristen Radsliff Clark
Doctoral Candidate
LCHC and Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego

From: [] On Behalf Of Phil Chappell
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2005 4:16 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA - Hasan: Words, Meaning, Speech?

I sent this earlier and noticed the scan was rather large - it didn't go through fortunately. The file is now of "un-annoying" size, I hope! Sorry if the original turns up later - Phil

Hi Kristen,

Can I comment on your first question? I have attached a three-page scan from a book by Claire Painter who did a longitudinal study of child language development in a similar vein to that of Michael Halliday's. Painter mentions one of the limitations of protolanguage is that the infant's signs lack representational and experiential content - "the child's inability to refer specifically to any 'bit' of outside reality". Painter goes on to suggest a first step is to introduce "names" into the functional system. Hmm. "Names" Painter seems to suggest these are vocabulary items, which the infant lacks.

I wasn't going to paraphrase her discussion (in the interests of time), so I'll leave you with the couple of pages, as well as the child's protolanguage system mapped out for functions, meaning options, how they are realised (lots of grunts and gurgles ;-) and an interpretation of what the child was meaning.

You ask: "Can we think of protolinguistic children as "having words/word meaning" but not speech and whether/how "having speech" might be different for our understanding of the debate?" According to Painter and Halliday, no, although come to think of it, after reading the Painter snippet, what is "having speech" for the infant?

Vygotsky wrote: "It is essential that the development of speech occurs independently of thinking and thinking develops independently of the development of children's speech, but at a certain instant, both meet. At approximately the age of two, the child experiences a burgeoning of his vocabulary, its active extension, after which there is a phase of questions: "What is this? What do you call this?"

What do you think?


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