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

From: ruqaiya hasan (
Date: Tue Jul 26 2005 - 01:33:28 PDT

hello Mike
sorry to keep disappearing and reappearing; this time, I am here to stay
(hopefully) until say the 15th of August but then not back again until end
of September.

you ask did anyone answer the question with specific ref to Halliday on this
topic; I think I did but might have been about 10 days back; it was quite a
screed. (yes I just checked I sent it on 13 July Subject shown as [xmca]
sense and meaning)

So far as the suggestion re sense and meaning in your message goes, my
reaction is two fold. First, it seems to me that it might matter less what
term one uses with what meaning, so long as the relations of that term to
the others in the theory are specified, and made obvious through discussion
and exemplification. if the use of the terms you are suggesting here is
indeed how Vygotsky actually used the words in his writing then the only
question I would raise is about how this conception of the terms fits into
any theory of language he might be voicing. I would really be glad to hear
some views on this.

My second reaction to the suggestion is that so far as linguists' usage is
concerned, what they have is a three term system (meaning, reference and
sense); typically sense is closer to what Saussure called valeur ie
relations within language and this is much closer to paradignmatic than to
syntagmatic, since actual syntagms occur in some specific environment
(social and linguistic), and thus the meaning of some term in an actual
syntagm (social and linguistic context) is an amalgam of both sense and
rerference, with reference here and now being more relevant. So it seems to
me the usaqge being suggested in the message below might run counter to the
linguists usage.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Cole" <>
To: <>; "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
Sent: Saturday, July 23, 2005 1:00 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: meaning and sense and has anyone any opinion

Peg-- Your synopsis--
 So, maybe 'meaning' can be understood as the paradigmatic and 'sense' as
syntagmatic of a mutually constitutive set.
 makes sense to me (so to speak!-- our language cripples us!!).
 It fits well with the LSV's idea that meaning is the most stable end of a
spectrum/dimension/dialectical process and
with his treatment of "true" concepts that exist synchronically in a
systematic relataion to each other.
 What is missing from the terms that go with sense/meaning is any idea of
the relative prominance/role of emotion
in their constitution/functioning. I think of sense as also dynamic in that
it is a process of reduction of an incohate mass
of in situ cobbling together of some way to externalize just the right
artifact with which to negotiate futures with co-labor-ators.
 PS-- Much earlier I asked about what might be the corresponding distinction
in Halliday. If there was an answer, I missed it.
I am still not giving up on the idea that we can pull some sort of
systematic results from the LCA discussion.

 On 7/22/05, Peg Griffin <> wrote:
> Gordon, I've often thought along the lines you explore about how it
> relates
> 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 both
> 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
> relentlessly
> 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
> of
> language might explore to establish this). Each constitutes the other.
> So, maybe 'meaning' can be understood as the paradigmatic and 'sense' as
> the
> 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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