Re: [xmca] sense and meaning

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Mon Jul 11 2005 - 07:59:12 PDT

I'm not sure I can offer much here, Mike, but in the vortex of voices,
I'd like to add what I understand. Whenever I am confronted with the
concepts "sense" and "meaning" I immediately attend to the notion of
thought and context. Being an English speaker and therefore only having
an approximation of the semantic differences between sense and meaning
in Vygotsky's writings (meaning (znachenie) and sense (smysl)), I ask
is "sense" the socio-personal history of the communicative use of a
lexical item applied to the immediate spheres of human activity; and is
meaning the most predictable use of the word across social contexts?
SFL uses a theory of congruency that has come under criticism for being
deterministic, however if understood within the the genetic approach
used not only by Vygotsky, but also by SFL'ers (for example Jim
Martin), it is seen as an informed approach to social semiotics - it
looks at actual uses of language to make judgements about language use
in human activity. Sense and meaning can take on much more critical
applications; for example "sense" - for LSV word meaning in the context
of speech - can be thought of dynamically in the context of ways that
people engage with texts and the ways that these communicative
activities influence the social positions of the interactants. Meaning
can be thought of as "most expected meanings" in terms of those taking
a more synoptic view.

Rough thoughts.


On 09/07/2005, at 9:56 PM, Mike Cole wrote:

> In reading the work of Halliday, Hasan, and Bernstein, I am unclear
> about whether their
> notions of meaning do or do not coincide with Vygotsky's. One form of
> this uncertainty is
> whether and how a distinction between sense and meaning, which is
> central to LSV's
> ideas about language and thought, are viewed from an SFL perspective.
> Perhaps its there
> and I am blinded by my own past history?
> mike_______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

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