Re: [xmca] RE: meaning and sense and has anyone any opinion

From: ruqaiya hasan (
Date: Tue Jul 26 2005 - 00:41:34 PDT

how interesting. Most systemic linguists would agree with you that
paradignmatic syntagmatic are not opposing categories but complementary and
that neither can be viewed as prior; in fact they are simply ways of
exploring the internal organization of language (as are langue/parole) --
temporal ordering does not come into it.

But I didn't know that the paradigmatic syntagmatic was a feature of Prague
School though I have read a good bit of their work. Linguists today would
trace the pair to Saussure (who talked of associative and syntagmatic) whose
views were clarified most strenously by Hjelmslev and by Firth followed most
clearly in Halliday & colleagues' writings.

What I don't know of course is how this distinction specifically relates to
Vygotsky's views. Clearly, when he makes the difference between signal and
symbol, I would imagine that the working of a sign as symbol becomes
possible only as experience of the paradigmatic relations of an item grows,
which naturally implies that the item is likely to have been encountered in
many/varied syntagmatic environments.

I would really like to know where I can read anything of Vygotsky's with
reference to this distinction (other than remarks in Thought and Language
and other well known publications edited by Cole or Wertsch). Could someone
please help me. Many thanks


----- Original Message -----
From: "Peg Griffin" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2005 11:31 PM
Subject: [xmca] RE: meaning and sense and has anyone any opinion

> Gordon, I've often thought along the lines you explore about how it
> to Vygotsky's meaning/sense discussion. Maybe it reflects his roots in
> philology. If so, then maybe we can push it a little further.
> Gordon's list of alternatives were: "dynamic/everyday/narrative v.
> synoptic/scientific/paradigmatic modes of meaning-making." When I see
> "paradigmatic," I look for "syntagmatic." Maybe for Gordon this is in
> or either "dynamic" and "synoptic?"
> I understand paradigmatic and syntagmatic as mutually constitutive not so
> much "versus." So, for example, for linguists (I think whether you look
> back to Prague School or further to Panini) the copula verb ("to be" in
> English) as a paradigm (for example: be am is are were been) is
> tied to/emerging with its syntax (I am. She is. etc.). The syntagmatic
> patterning is not just a methodological frame for the morphological
> paradigm; neither one is necessarily primitive to the other (but theories
> language might explore to establish this). Each constitutes the other.
> So, maybe 'meaning' can be understood as the paradigmatic and 'sense' as
> syntagmatic of a mutually constitutive set.
> I don't really think this is anything new for most following this
> discussion. Just maybe a resumption?
> Thanks, David and Gordon, for ideas on the Olson book.
> Peg
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Gordon Wells
> Sent: Thursday, July 14, 2005 6:01 PM
> To:
> Subject: RE: [xmca] has anyone any opinion
> >Dear Peg,
> >This is one of the best books that I have read lately about the
> >application of psychological theory to education. I really recommend it.
> >David
> >
> I agree. I found Olson's book very stimulating.
> What I found particularly fascinating was the parallel between
> learning in the classroom as an emergent phenomenon v. learning as
> framed and organized by the larger institution of education, on the
> one hand, and dynamic/everyday/narrative v.
> synoptic/scientific/paradigmatic modes of meaning-making, on the
> other. Although I haven't checked this with David, I suspect his
> late-flowering interest in the tension between these two perspectives
> on education arises from his earlier work on the relationship between
> speech and writing (cf.his provocative paper "From utterance to
> text", 1978).
> The distinction he made there with respect to the locus of meaning -
> between the negotiated, situated meaning of utterances and the fixed,
> situation-independent meaning of the text resurfaces in this recent
> book: in classrooms, meaning is co-constructed in the ongoing
> discourse and what is 'meant' by teacher or students is rarely
> understood in the same way by all parties. By contrast, within the
> institution of education, what is 'meant' in relation to goals,
> organizational structures, curriculum and criteria for success is
> specified in written documents, whose meaning is assumed to be fixed
> and understood identically by all concerned.
> This seems to be related to the sense and meaning contrast that is
> currently under discussion.
> Gordon
> --
> Gordon Wells
> Dept of Education,
> UC Santa Cruz.
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