This time it was me who has been away where the internet cannot (yet)
intrude. I write because I feel a distinct lack of closure in the discussion
which really never got seriously to bernstein-- or I missed it.
I have no particular interest in debate, but I am very interested in
between the followers of Vygotsky, Halliday, and Bernstein as well, as
of the ideas of those thinkers "themselves".
I started late, so missed the discussion of "Concrete Psychology" and some
My question is: where the complimentarties? Where are there principled
I agree wholeheartedly that we are not looking for one-one matches.
"Meaning is the most stabile zone of sense"
does not mean that meaning is context-independent. Then entire concept of
"context-independent" seems to give
rise to as many misunderstandings as "object." Operating in at least two
different ontological/epsitemological systems (e.g
the difference associated with the systems we call psychology, lingustics,
and sociology) its a real challenge to figure out
the difference between misunderstandings and real disagreements. For the
latter some frame, some "discipline" seems
From what I have been able to make of the conversation, there is a good
deal of overlap among the systems of ideas and the
phenomena they relate to. It seems agreed, for example, that LSV was not a
linguist and did not work from a highly elaborated
linguistics, especially a linguistics informed by recent decades of research
on grammar, thereby creating problems in relating sound,
meaning, and grammar and their psychological implications.
I come away completely unclear whether Halliday is making psychological
claims (I think is does, but I am not a trained linguist so I
am unsure "what counts."). I am pretty sure Bernstein does make
psychological claims, but I may be wrong.
I think, overall, the trio of lsv, halliday, and bernstein have provided a
lot of food for thought.
One place I tried to relate our theoretical discussion to its historical
enviroment was when the discussion of education and democracy
came up. Here I believe we commonly face a difficulty dilmma. The forms of
interaction we tend to respond to as "good" ( we value
them) privilege individual agency as essential to learning and development
-- In the beginning was the DEED. But our social mechanisms
are formed so that, overwhelmingly, the developing child is encouraged to
believe that in the beginning was the WORD. "Take your seats"
was here many millenia before I came along.
I thought Kozulin's discussion of Davydov, although no one responded to
it., particularly interesting because it was a case study of a person
using CHAT, struggling to implement a set of ideas about education that look
highly theoretical and perhaps only for the well-to-do but which
a number of Russian researchers have used a method of critique not only of
education, but of society as well. A presumably "neutral" curriculum
is nothing of the sort. And ditto for us in our time(s) and place (s). And,
of course, Davydov's colleagues and students, as well as others outside
of Russia have made up curricula for the arts and history which it is very
difficult to see as ideologically neutral.
Still a lot of food for thought. But the food is strewn all 'round my
On 8/6/05, ruqaiya hasan <Ruqaiya.Hasan@ling.mq.edu.au> wrote:
> Hi Gordon and everyone
> So much has been written on the topic of meaning and sense that it seems
> rash to pick it up once again, when people are perhaps just about ready to
> close the topic. (The whole debate unfortunately came at a bad time for me
> when I could read quickly but never manage to write back in a regular
> fashion). But I do want to say a few things, and some of them relate
> to what you have said in this message.
> I would have said that in probing, say, Halliday and Vygotsky on the
> question of meaning, sense etc the aim is not so much to find a "correct
> match": translating one theory into another is no less problematic than
> translating a text from one language into another. There is only the
> possibility of 'approximation' acorss the two, not of 'replication' in the
> majority of cases. One thing that makes even approximation a little
> problematic is the a-symmetry in the systemic relation between meaning and
> sense on the one hand and meaning, reference and sense on the other. When
> roughly the same domain is seen in terms of three vectors of
> differentiation, it presents a picture that is substantially different
> the picture presented by a two vector differentiation. Certain
> are made more explicit in the former, less so in the latter.
> You have suggested Gordon, "Halliday, as linguists, treat 'meaning' as
> comprised of 'sense' and 'reference'.However, when Vygotsky contrasted
> 'meaning' and 'sense', he was making a psychological distinction rather
> than a linguistic one." I don't quite understand in what sense you use the
> term "psychological" here. Are you suggesting that "sense and meaning"
> be in some way related to higher mental functions of the human species; if
> so, the question naturally arises how are such "psychological concepts"
> mediated; if they are not mediated then they must be bio-genetic; and this
> in my understanding would go entirely against the Vygotskian position. So
> psychological concetualisation of meaning must be based on the meaning
> process we refer to as semiotic mediation -- this makes an interesting
> reading. Would you agree?
> You also suggested the following: " Linguists typically deal with units
> as word or clause in terms of their relationship to other units within the
> system of a language and to the entities, states, etc, in the world to
> which they may refer. On the other hand, although Vygotsky was discussing
> his chosen unit 'word', it seems to me that he was thinking of its
> contextualized utterance by a speaker in interaction with a discourse
> partner or with himself. If this is correct, the distinction he was making
> was between the 'meaning'of a word as it might appear in a dictionary and
> the personal 'sense' it has for the speaker, as a result of the contexts
> which s/he has heard or used the word before, together
> with the affective overtones it carries with it."
> It seems to me that SFL position on menaing is not the same as that of
> linguistic models that I am familiar with. As you know in SFL meaning is
> viewed in context -- both the context of situation in which the
> is embedded and also the context of the text within which any unit of
> language word, clause or clause complex is embedded. Besides in as much as
> speaker affect is realised linguistically, it is in SFL amenable to
> linguistic analysis since meaning is not simply "cognitive/referential"
> "interactive/interpersonal" and is based in relevance since there is also
> textuality aspect of meaning. Relevance has to be interactant-context
> What goes into the dictionary is not linguists' imagined 'word meaning':
> is typically a record of the default understanding and use of items by
> members of large segments of the speech community: this understanding they
> derive from their interactions with others in the community.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Gordon Wells" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: <email@example.com>
> Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 1:31 AM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: meaning and sense and has anyone any opinion
> > Ruqaiya, Michael, Mike and Others,
> > When I looked again at the message to which Ruqaiya replied as below,
> > I realized it wasn't as clear as I had thought. But before I try to
> > clarify my intended meaning, I want to suggest that there is perhaps
> > an incommensurability at the heart of our problem in trying to decide
> > the correct match between Vygotsky's 'meaning' and 'sense' and the
> > comparable terms in SFL.
> > I think the problem is that Ruqaiya and Halliday, as linguists, treat
> > 'meaning' as comprised of 'sense' and 'reference'.However, when
> > Vygotsky contrasted 'meaning' and 'sense', he was making a
> > psychological distinction rather than a linguistic one. Linguists
> > typically deal with units such as word or clause in terms of their
> > relationship to other units within the system of a language and to
> > the entities, states, etc, in the world to which they may refer. On
> > the other hand, although Vygotsky was discussing his chosen unit
> > 'word', it seems to me that he was thinking of its contextualized
> > utterance by a speaker in interaction with a discourse partner or
> > with himself. If this is correct, the distinction he was making was
> > between the 'meaning'of a word as it might appear in a dictionary and
> > the personal 'sense' it has for the speaker, as a result of the
> > contexts is which s/he has heard or used the word before, together
> > with the affective overtones it carries with it.This is how I
> > interpret the following quote from Thinking and Speech.
> > A word's sense is the aggregate of all the psychological facts that
> > arise in our consciousness as a result of the word. Sense is a
> > dynamic, fluid, and complex formation which has several zones that
> > vary in their stability. . . . In different contexts, a word's sense
> > changes. In contrast, meaning is a comparatively fixed and stable
> > point, one that remains constant with all the changes of the word's
> > sense that are associated with its use in various contexts. . . . The
> > actual meaning of a word is inconstant. In one operation the word
> > emerges with one meaning; in another, another is acquired. (1987, p.
> > 276)
> > My previous message was somewhat off topic. But Halliday's (1984)
> > paper, "Language as Code and language as Behavior", suggests that
> > there is some overlap between his distinction between dynamic and
> > synoptic and distinctions that both Vygotsky and Bruner have made. As
> > I understand it, "dynamic" applies to registers that are informal and
> > related to ongoing activity, whereas "synoptic" applies to registers
> > that formulate relationships between events and states of affais, as
> > seen from "above", as it were. This is quite close to Bruner's
> > distinction between "narrative" and "paradigmatic" modes of meaning.
> > So it seems to me that Vygotsky's distinction between "everyday" and
> > "scientific" concepts maps quite closely on to the two former
> > distinctions.
> > But this is not the same issue as the distinction between meaning and
> > sense. On that issue, I liked Michael's:
> > >If I understand right, sense is tied to the relation of activity
> > >(something collectively motivated) and action (something
> > >individually realized). So sense arises from the dialectic relation
> > >of self and other, individual and collective. Some writers use the
> > >qualifier "personal" to situate "sense."
> > >
> > >Perhaps that gives us an entry point to understanding meaning, as a
> > >generalized version of personal sense, that is, the possibilities of
> > >sense available at the collective level.
> > >
> > >
> > Gordon
> > >Gordon hello
> > >I am quite bemused by "dynamic/everyday/narrative v.
> > >synoptic/scientific/paradigmatic modes of meaning-making." what do the
> > >slashes indicate? Are they post-modenist or the conventional "or" sign.
> > >really do not find it easy to interpret the lexical items of the second
> > >in their present collocation.
> > >
> > >At one stage I had thought the issue was the conceptualisation of
> > >language or meaning construed by language, but I must6 have got it
> > >H'm well -- perhaps its that I am just not used to "dynamic" discourse
> > >online. I was even more lost with your comment which I quote below:
> > >Similarly, Halliday's dynamic/ synoptic distinction might be equated
> > >narrative/syntagmatic - to some degree!!, while synoptic highlights
> > >the paradigmatic relationship between alternative lexicogrammatical
> > >realizations of the same event, with a focus on grammatical metaphor
> > >through nominalization.
> > >
> > >I most probably do not have anything very sensible from the points of
> > >of the direction of the present disdcourse on sense and meaning.
> > >
> > >Ruqaiya
> > >
> > --
> > Gordon Wells
> > Dept of Education, http://education.ucsc.edu/faculty/gwells
> > UC Santa Cruz.
> > firstname.lastname@example.org
> > _______________________________________________
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> > email@example.com
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
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