[xmca] Vygotsky on infant speech dev

From: Mike Cole (lchcmike@gmail.com)
Date: Sun Jul 10 2005 - 16:29:15 PDT

In connection with another writing assignment, I have returned to Ailita
Markova's book Teaching and Mastery
of Language (Sharpe, 1979). There I re-discovered a nice treatment of stages
in chat terms and quotations
from the compendium of essays in the 1956 Russian edition of the (then) two
volume collected works. I searched
for a while in the 1987 English version and could not find the original
essays and no longer have my copy of the
1959 Russian edition, so the following needs to be followed up. I believe it
is relevant because it speaks directly
AGAINST the assumptions in our current readings that Vygotsky underplayed
the centrality of interpersonal functions of language. So here are some bits
to chew over. Markova is in blue. Vygotksy quotes selected by Markova are
ugh, red.

We shall defined language as a system of socially elaborated means for
carrying out the activity of communication, and speech as the mode of
communicative activity. Communication is activity directed toward resolving
the tasks of social intercourse. Social intercourse includes contact with
particular individuals and interaction with society, direct
practical collaboration and exchange of ideas and values, and so on, We thus
understand the activity of communication to be the general form of a
specifically human activity, whose particular manifestations are all the
types of interaction of each individual with others, as well as with the
objects of the world around him.(p. 15-16).

Vygotsky pointed out the social orientation of speech responses during this
stage (birth to 12 months). A chil's relative complex and rich social
contact results in extremely early development of the 'means of
communication.' There are unmistakable signs of unequivocally specific
responses to the human voice as early as the third week of life (presocial
responses) nd of the first social response to a human voice during the
second month. (1956,p.12).

The function of early speech responses of the child is to establish contact
with adults, to act upon them, and to support emotional contact; this is the
beginning of the expressive function of speech. The most important aspect of
this preintellectual stage of speech, however, is the the development of the
social function (p. 17).

As Seth Chaiklin has pointed out with respect to discussions of the zone of
proximal development, the enormous impact of Vygotsky based on a limited
number of available texts is in need of expansion in light of the far
greater range of writings currently available. I find myself confused by the
wobbly use of activity with respect to speech and communication in the
Markova text as I do in the AA Leontiev text. The everyday and technical
uses of the term
appear (to me) to be used in an unsystematic manner -- or the translations
are wanting. But with respect to the
earlier assumptions in the LCA discussion about the ontogenetic priveleing
of object oriented/instrumental
uses of speech versus interpersonal uses, the present passages appear to
indicate an urgent need for those
for whom this is a central issue to spend some time with the 6 volume
collected works in English.

( should note that the Markova book is worthwhile for anyone interested in
the educational uses of Vygotsky's ideas in general)


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