Hi Ruqaiya, Mike, Gordon and interested others,
Here's a viewpoint from the UK... in response to recent mailings from
To me the main differences between what Vygotsky and what Halliday say
are as follows:
The notion of the person in thought and discourse.
For Vygotsky the person and and their history and relationship with
their social world is essential in terms of understanding thinking.
However it seems to be that while Halliday talks in terms of "social
context," discourse is treated like a picture, minus the artist. What
analysed is what is seen.
I find the aspects of 'context of situation' really confusing. The
language is there in the analysis- ideational, interpersonal and
and Ruqaiya writes of the mediator. And yet when texts are analysed
it is only what is seen that is investigated, not what is known in
terms of the historical and wider social context of the
writer/mediator. Gunther Kress also
takes this position when discussing his multimodallity in images. What
have we here? What do you think it looks like.. etc. Not what does the
child say it is, why have they produced this image, what other images
has he/she produced, what other images have the class produced, what
role does this image have on other images that they make.
So this is where combining a Hallidayian approach with a Vygotskian
analysis is useful. This is partly because the internalised sign,
different from the external tool, actually becomes part of the thought
process. Words, or small units of texts, which might be clauses, become
the very tools which structure thought. Vygotsky did not analyse the
langauge grammatically, but I think that he wasnt necessarily thinking
of the sign as a word, but as the sense that someone makes. This sense
then helps to make other senses.
But if we combine the two ideas together, by teaching kids grammar
conceptually, then the new constructs can become tools for thought,
taking language and learning further.
Does this make sense??? Or have I misinterpretated both?
On 17 Aug 2005, at 03:57, Mike Cole wrote:
> Thanks very much for the thoughtful reply, Ruqaiya.
> I will be interested in what others who have been following this
> thread have to say.
> "see you" when you come back on line.
> On 8/16/05, ruqaiya hasan <Ruqaiya.Hasan@ling.mq.edu.au> wrote:
>> Hello Michael
>> I really was glad to hear from you: for one thing it reassured me
>> is some real interest in seeing the connections. I agree that the
>> has not been as 'concentrated' as the subject demanded. But perhaps
>> the nature of modern day existence -- one moves around so much.
>> I shall not be united with my notebook for at least another 14 days.
>> So I
>> must try and address as best as I can at least some of the issues
>> raised. My interest too is not in debate as such but I do value
>> it often allows one to view problems from a different perspective.
>> As it happens I too have missed out on most of the discussion; in
>> I was a silent listener to writers who are very familiar with the
>> I did not think that active participation in those debates would
>> teach me
>> more than simply listening to them. Concrete psychology is one such
>> On Tools/signs I could have said something but again it would have
>> interrupted the thinking of colleagues who are -- or at least appear
>> be -- very much more fluent. I do not see a difference between
>> from my reading of Vygotsky and reflection on what scholars have
>> vygotsky, it seems to me that the opposition is not here: sign is as
>> tool as a non-sign ie Vygotsky's "concrete tool" -- as I understood,
>> Vygotsky was using the funcitoning of concrete tool to bring home
>> functioning of abstract tool (ie sign as tool), which also enabled
>> him to
>> point out some important distinctions between concrete tools and
>> tools. The discussion of meaning in Vygotsky seems (to me) to be
>> closely related to the specification of the semiotic, particularly,
>> linguistic tool in the performance of mental activities.
>> Yes, I agree with you that we must distinguish between
>> and 'real disagreement'. I am less interested though in disputing or
>> establishing the 'credentials' of thinkers as belonging to this or
>> discipline. My interest in Vygotrsky, Bernstein, Halliday, G H Mead,
>> and some other scholars is precisely because they have done their
>> in such a way as to leave routes open for connecting with other
>> issues which did not form their main focus. For example -- and you
>> have to point out to me if my thinking differs from yours at this
>> point --
>> Vygotsky's focus was on the development of specifically human mental
>> functions. He believed that semiotic modalities, especially
>> an important part in this process. His focus was not on the
>> description of
>> language as such, but he exploreds those aspects of language which
>> him absolutely essential for mental development. Halliday's focus is
>> language; the claim he makes about a child learning languageis that
>> a language involves learning language, learning about language and
>> through language. The last I see as resonating strongly with
>> hypothesis about the semiotic mediation of mental functions.
>> not then begin to move into the field of psychology any more than I
>> Vygotsky moved to the field of linguistics: but through his case
>> study of
>> child, Halliday shows that discourse -- social interaction -- is
>> where the
>> child finds the resources for shaping his/her language, ideas about
>> language, as well as learning through language. If this is a
>> claim then so be it. Then again there is another element of
>> between LSV and MAKH: language in this perspective has to be a
>> socio-historical phenomenon, not one which comes ready made in the
>> one's brain and accidentally gets linked to the world of one's
>> Thirdly, both Vygotsky and Halliday think of language as a meaning
>> system, not simply as a meaning expressing system: the difference
>> these positions is (speaking with oversimplification) the difference
>> meaning as socio-historical semiotic creation as opposed to meaning
>> naming: the latter concept refers to 'signalling' what is there
>> present to
>> the senses, the former (ie socio-historical base for semiosis) is
>> symbolic, ie can only happen where there is a sign-system; in this
>> language is not a set/collection of individual signs: it is a system
>> signs wherein each sign has a value by virtue of its relation to
>> signs. Similar openings can be found between Halliday and Bernstein
>> between bernstein and Vygotsky. Bernstein certain makesw a
>> claim in the same way, when he says that the child's consciousness
>> and his understanding of the social structure in which he is located
>> defined by the acts of his own voluntary acts of discursive
>> But his focus is on sociology: how is it that societies reproduce or
>> themselves. this "psychological" claim is simply one element that
>> significance in his system of explanations, the same way as
>> about children's language learning is an element in his
>> nature of human language.
>> Where I see complementarity is in explanations in the wider domain:
>> to me
>> seems that if we wish to understand about how language works in the
>> life of human beings, and how patterns of social life permeate
>> function, and how language as we know it can only be spoken by a
>> being -- when we want to understand this wider canvass, we have to
>> all three scholars: they complement each others' work. Not one of
>> them by
>> himself can address the wider canvass; their theories being
>> connections with other domains but they stay focused on either
>> or 'linguistics' or 'sociology'.
>> Now, because (as Bernstein said) the language of description in all
>> fields is specific to that field (these are not vertical but
>> knowledge structures), reading these scholars is problematic: each
>> has a
>> different language of description; unless one understands the
>> structure, one might not fully understand the significance of their
>> (theories too are systems, and theoretical concepts are like signs
>> deriving its meaning by its relation to other signs). So the
>> likelihood of
>> misunderstanding is pretty high. Besides our profession does not
>> us for investing in "understanding"; it pays us only for
>> is hardly enough time at one's disposal to try to understand so many
>> different "theoretical languages". I would suggest that there will
>> also be
>> disagreements among these scholars. For example, for Bernstein and
>> Halliday 'semiotic mediation' per se could not be a 'uniform'
>> it seems in Vygotsky): different forms of semiotic mediation will
>> different sorts of mental orientations, different habits of mind (as
>> puts it). We talk a good deal about changing the education system,
>> educator and I am sure all of us are sincere, but I cannot help
>> that education is "for" already (at least partially) formed minds;
>> take the variation in habitual forms of mediation into account,
>> reason for us to feel sanguine that our so called reforms are going
>> to do
>> something incredibly marvellous by way of educating. Let me put it
>> if Vygotsky says semiotic mediation is the essence of education in
>> that it makes human minds, then Bernstein says (not against but with
>> Vygotsky) every child brings a (partially) formed mind; speaking to
>> mind so as to get through is the essence of semiotic mediation in
>> education, and Halliday says in order to understand these complex
>> to fashion your semiosis effectively, you must understand how and
>> language works the way it does, and also how and why it gets learnt
>> in the
>> first place. These three scholars together solve a much bigger
>> any one of them solves by himself: in each individual case the story
>> I do not see this as a lack, a failure or something of that kind: I
>> human social existence is complex and no one can tell the whole
>> is why we need to rethink our ideas about the nature of "optimal"
>> (hence my great admiration of exotropic theories). Also we tend to
>> theories in a way that is very much like the old "intelligence
>> see what they have done; rather than this, we do need to look (with
>> apologies to Vygotsky) at the 'proximal zone of explanation'
>> in a
>> theory: the question is not what did this/that theory achieve, but
>> what CAN this/that theory achieve given the right theories to
>> I am sure I have not addressed all the issues you raised but I do
>> feel a
>> little self-conscious writing all this -- so all I want to say in
>> this: I am very happy to have any opinions on the thoughts I have
>> irrespective of whether they are in agreement or in disagreement
>> Also if people have time, correcting what they might see as errors
>> understanding on my part would be welcome.
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Mike Cole" <email@example.com>
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> Sent: Sunday, August 14, 2005 7:30 AM
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: meaning and sense and has anyone any opinion
>> H Ruqaiya-
>> This time it was me who has been away where the internet cannot
>> intrude. I write because I feel a distinct lack of closure in the
>> 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,
>> of the ideas of those thinkers "themselves".
>> I started late, so missed the discussion of "Concrete Psychology"
>> of the
>> "Tools/Signs" discussion.
>> My question is: where the complimentarties? Where are there
>> 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
>> different ontological/epsitemological systems (e.g
>> the difference associated with the systems we call psychology,
>> and sociology) its a real challenge to figure out
>> the difference between misunderstandings and real disagreements. For
>> latter some frame, some "discipline" seems
>> From what I have been able to make of the conversation, there is a
>> 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
>> on grammar, thereby creating problems in relating sound,
>> meaning, and grammar and their psychological implications.
>> I come away completely unclear whether Halliday is making
>> 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
>> 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
>> -- 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
>> it., particularly interesting because it was a case study of a
>> using CHAT, struggling to implement a set of ideas about education
>> 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
>> of course, Davydov's colleagues and students, as well as others
>> of Russia have made up curricula for the arts and history which it
>> difficult to see as ideologically neutral.
>> Still a lot of food for thought. But the food is strewn all 'round
>> 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
>>> rash to pick it up once again, when people are perhaps just about
>>> close the topic. (The whole debate unfortunately came at a bad time
>>> when I could read quickly but never manage to write back in a
>>> fashion). But I do want to say a few things, and some of them
>>> to what you have said in this message.
>>> I would have said that in probing, say, Halliday and Vygotsky on
>>> question of meaning, sense etc the aim is not so much to find a
>>> match": translating one theory into another is no less problematic
>>> translating a text from one language into another. There is only
>>> possibility of 'approximation' acorss the two, not of 'replication'
>>> majority of cases. One thing that makes even approximation a little
>>> problematic is the a-symmetry in the systemic relation between
>>> sense on the one hand and meaning, reference and sense on the
>>> roughly the same domain is seen in terms of three vectors of
>>> differentiation, it presents a picture that is substantially
>>> 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'
>>> comprised of 'sense' and 'reference'.However, when Vygotsky
>>> 'meaning' and 'sense', he was making a psychological distinction
>>> than a linguistic one." I don't quite understand in what sense you
>>> term "psychological" here. Are you suggesting that "sense and
>>> be in some way related to higher mental functions of the human
>>> so, the question naturally arises how are such "psychological
>>> mediated; if they are not mediated then they must be bio-genetic;
>>> in my understanding would go entirely against the Vygotskian
>>> psychological concetualisation of meaning must be based on the
>>> process we refer to as semiotic mediation -- this makes an
>>> reading. Would you agree?
>>> You also suggested the following: " Linguists typically deal with
>>> as word or clause in terms of their relationship to other units
>>> system of a language and to the entities, states, etc, in the world
>>> which they may refer. On the other hand, although Vygotsky was
>>> his chosen unit 'word', it seems to me that he was thinking of its
>>> contextualized utterance by a speaker in interaction with a
>>> partner or with himself. If this is correct, the distinction he was
>>> was between the 'meaning'of a word as it might appear in a
>>> the personal 'sense' it has for the speaker, as a result of the
>>> 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
>>> 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
>>> language word, clause or clause complex is embedded. Besides in as
>>> speaker affect is realised linguistically, it is in SFL amenable to
>>> linguistic analysis since meaning is not simply
>>> "interactive/interpersonal" and is based in relevance since there
>>> textuality aspect of meaning. Relevance has to be
>>> What goes into the dictionary is not linguists' imagined 'word
>>> is typically a record of the default understanding and use of items
>>> members of large segments of the speech community: this
>>> derive from their interactions with others in the community.
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Gordon Wells" <email@example.com>
>>> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>> Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 1:31 AM
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: meaning and sense and has anyone any
>>>> Ruqaiya, Michael, Mike and Others,
>>>> When I looked again at the message to which Ruqaiya replied as
>>>> I realized it wasn't as clear as I had thought. But before I try
>>>> clarify my intended meaning, I want to suggest that there is
>>>> an incommensurability at the heart of our problem in trying to
>>>> 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,
>>>> '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.
>>>> 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
>>>> between the 'meaning'of a word as it might appear in a dictionary
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> changes. In contrast, meaning is a comparatively fixed and stable
>>>> point, one that remains constant with all the changes of the
>>>> sense that are associated with its use in various contexts. . . .
>>>> actual meaning of a word is inconstant. In one operation the word
>>>> emerges with one meaning; in another, another is acquired. (1987,
>>>> 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.
>>>> I understand it, "dynamic" applies to registers that are informal
>>>> related to ongoing activity, whereas "synoptic" applies to
>>>> that formulate relationships between events and states of affais,
>>>> seen from "above", as it were. This is quite close to Bruner's
>>>> distinction between "narrative" and "paradigmatic" modes of
>>>> So it seems to me that Vygotsky's distinction between "everyday"
>>>> "scientific" concepts maps quite closely on to the two former
>>>> But this is not the same issue as the distinction between meaning
>>>> 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
>>>>> of self and other, individual and collective. Some writers use
>>>>> qualifier "personal" to situate "sense."
>>>>> Perhaps that gives us an entry point to understanding meaning,
>>>>> generalized version of personal sense, that is, the possibilities
>>>>> sense available at the collective level.
>>>>> Gordon hello
>>>>> I am quite bemused by "dynamic/everyday/narrative v.
>>>>> synoptic/scientific/paradigmatic modes of meaning-making." what
>>>>> slashes indicate? Are they post-modenist or the conventional "or"
>>>>> really do not find it easy to interpret the lexical items of the
>>>>> 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
>>>>> H'm well -- perhaps its that I am just not used to "dynamic"
>>>>> online. I was even more lost with your comment which I quote
>>>>> Similarly, Halliday's dynamic/ synoptic distinction might be
>>>>> narrative/syntagmatic - to some degree!!, while synoptic
>>>>> the paradigmatic relationship between alternative
>>>>> realizations of the same event, with a focus on grammatical
>>>>> through nominalization.
>>>>> I most probably do not have anything very sensible from the
>>>>> of the direction of the present disdcourse on sense and meaning.
>>>> Gordon Wells
>>>> Dept of Education, http://education.ucsc.edu/faculty/gwells
>>>> UC Santa Cruz.
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca mailing list
> xmca mailing list
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