Re: [xmca] J.M. Baldwin

From: steve thorne (
Date: Wed Jun 07 2006 - 22:03:14 PDT

hi Mike -- thanks for the question.

i'll reduce the arguments to a few sentences with a bit of exegesis
to follow (it is over-long but hopefully forges some of the
connections you inquired about).

- developmentally fecund imitation is intentional and goal directed
(Baldwin, also Vygotsky)
- this sort of imitation is the mechanism/process the makes
internalization possible (Vygotsky)
- humans have an innate and plastic capacity to recognize, interpret,
and creatively imitate the linguistic means by which other humans
realize and express intentions (Tomasello)

as a number of folks have mentioned already -- Baldwin's notion of
persistent imitation describes a process that is goal directed,
iterative, and most importantly, intentional. this very specific
definition of imitation is premised on awareness of the goal of an
action and the means available (e.g., mediational resources). i think
this is largely commensurate with Vygotsky's observations about

so, the Baldwin tie-in follows on Vygotsky's insight that development
involves internalizing idealizations of social and material activity
that results in increasing ones capacity to function independent of
the presence of specific social and material resources. imitation, in
the transformative sense proposed by Vygotsky (and many others),
couples well with the Balwin's emphasis on intentionality and

we also found it important to emphasize the bi-directional process of
internalization-externalization where individuals and collectives can
be seen as open and porous environments/systems. Ana Stetsenko, for
example, has a nice way of talking about this in her recent work --
where she redescribes the internalization and externalization
dialectic as the internalization and "contribution" dialectic.

as for Tomasello -- he focuses on three interrelated areas that are
enhanced by (creative) imitative language use in ontogeny -- joint
attention, intention-reading, and cultural learning. when it comes to
the complexities of language development, his usage-based approach to
language acquisition (2003) is a very good fit with CHAT for it
emphasizes intention ascription and language-use as a specialized
form of goal-directed attentional frame setting.

grammar in this sense isn't a precondition (e.g., nativists like
Chomsky), but emerges historically from language use in culturally
organized, goal directed activity. and it is language use that makes
possible the proliferation of, and inculcation and transformation of,
the complexities of human's culturally organized practices. all very
Vygotskian (and explicitly noted as such by Tomasello).

i should end by mentioning that Tomasello develops an elaborate
approach for addressing the specifics of learning language
(constructions, syntax and morphology, discourse, etc), where the
specifics of linguistic development are rooted in the intersubjective
establishment of joint attentional frames and the role of
communicative intentions within them.

Jim and i address these relations at length in a couple of venues,
which i can share by PDF if there is interest.

this is perhaps over-much, but i hope to have addressed your
question in adequate detail --


>How would you relate the notion of persistant imitation to Vygotsky on the
>one hand, and
>Tomasello on the other, Steve? We can post any text on that topic in the
>zoped page at xmca
>On 6/6/06, steve thorne <> wrote:
>>hi Phil -- yes, i find Jim's observation to be a very good one --
>>that imitation involves a kind of preemptive preparation for
>>increased participation in activity.
>>like you have, we found particularly Balwin's sense of "persistent
>>imitation" very useful -- the kind of imitative actions that are goal
>>directed, intentional, and cyclically developmental as the child (or
>>person) modifies their performance in contrapuntal relation to the
>>mental image of the original model. this fits very well with the
>>notion of development as the resolution of contradictions, where
>>iterative imitation constitutes the very process of internalization
>>Jim and i talk about imitation and internalization in detail in a
>>recent book (lantolf & thorne: sociocultural theory and the genesis
>>of second language development, oxford, 2006), with a discussion of
>>supportive and quite compelling research coming out of usage-based
>>models of language acquisition (Tomasello) and cognitive neuroscience
>>(e.g., Arbib on mirror neurons; Meltzoff on neonate development and
>>imitation). i have PDFs of all chapters for interested parties.
>>>Mike, Steve T, Artin, and others interested in Baldwin's work,
>>>Thanks for the connections to Valsiner and van der Veer, and also
>>>Cahan. My initial interest is in the two types of imitation that
>>>Baldwin proposed - imitative suggestion and persistent imitation.
>>>These forms of imitation could be thought of as a form involving
>>>transformation and a form not (?). Steve, your colleague Jim
>>>Lantolf, referring to V and VdV and also Baldwin, wrote that
>>>"persistent imitation anticipates the future and as such involves
>>>"feed-forward" (instead of feedback), which enables the organism to
>>>preadapt to future encounters with the world". An interesting
>>>I'll certainly look up the book by "the V's"... thanks!
>>>Imitation and the zoped. Hm.
>>>xmca mailing list
>>Steven L. Thorne
>>Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
>>Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
>>Associate Director, Center for Language Acquisition
>>Associate Director, Center for Advanced Language Proficiency
>>Education and Research
>>The Pennsylvania State University
>>Interact > 814.863.7036 | |
>> | IM: avkrook
>>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

Steven L. Thorne
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Associate Director, Center for Language Acquisition
Associate Director, Center for Advanced Language Proficiency 
Education and Research
The Pennsylvania State University
Interact > 814.863.7036 | | | IM: avkrook
xmca mailing list

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