Re: [xmca] Elements and Units

Date: Thu Feb 01 2007 - 07:26:38 PST


Perhaps I could clarify my position better so you understand my reason for
believing that word is capable of providing the proper unit for analysis.
In chapter 7 of Thought and Language Vygotsky makes sure to usurp the
theory of association for its explanation of how speech provides meaning
via associations to "complexes". Vygotsky rather wants to view word as an
avenue to thought and that meaning is based on thought rather than a word's
association to physical things. Words therefore can develop different
meanings depending upon the context and when I stated that for the purpose
of analysis a meaning should be delineated prior to analysis I was
referring to the words attachment to thought rather than to physcial
things. In Cole and Traupman's "Learning from a learning disabled child"
they describe an incident where a child refers to the recipe as a
'scripta'. In their analysis they focus on the word 'scripta' as an avenue
into the child's thoughts about the activity of baking. The spoken word
focuses on future activity as it is tied to the child's thinking. Please
consider the following conversation that would be common place in the

#1 yule be goin' up den?
#2 ya for sure, bring along your own
#1 my rifle?
#2 no, we'll be wettin' da line
#1 dey bitin?
#2 we'll get the bite on
#1 bright and early?
#2 we'll see ya bright and early

The entire subject matter is contained in the thoughts of the two speaking
and their focus is on future activity. Analysis of the conversation has to
focus on the words but as they pertain to the people's thoughts. All for
now because time is short but I hope this has clarified my thinking.

word up

                      David Kellogg
                      <vaughndogblack who-is-at To: xcma <>
            > cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: [xmca] Elements and Units
                      xmca-bounces who-is-at web
                      01/30/2007 11:39
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,

Dear Eric:

  I spoke to what little I understood, as I usually do. I'm sorry if my
reply in some way disappointed you. I admit, though, that my argument was
poorly expressed. Let me try again (and this time I will try using power
bullet points, as is the fashion).

  a) When you say that the outcome of the analysis is a bigger question
than the unit of analysis, you appear (to me) to ignore the possibility
that unit of analysis and outcome of analysis might be two ways of phrasing
the same question. The neck of the bottle is not a bigger bottle than the
belly; it's the same bottle.

  b) The "outcome" of analyses based on words (words as pre-defined, in a
dictionary, or a spell-checker or a grammar checker; words as defined on
the page) appears to be that middle class kids get more (varieties of and
quantities of words). This linguistic explanation is being offered as an
analysis of school failure.

  c) There is no reason to think that this linguistic analysis of school
failure is any less self-serving and tendentious than overtly racist
analyses of school failure offered up in the last century and the previous
one. There are reasons to think that it is, in fact, almost the same

  d) There are also empirical reasons to doubt that the linguistic analysis
succeeds in explaining school failure, viz. Gordon Wells' work, the fact
that high school kids tend to talk like their peers rather than their
parents, and what I see as a big contradiction in the Bernsteinian
prediction: middle class parents actually offer more weakly framed and more
weakly classified speech genres at home, while what schools demand is more
strongly framed and more strongly classified ones (if you think a minute
you may see that this is not unrelated to the goal-oriented mediated
context you were talking about).

  e) In addition, taking the utterance (that is, the turn of talk) as a
unit of analysis offers a developmental dimension, because it is clearly
from utterances that words develop in the minds of children. Having a
developmental dimension is important, because the point is not merely to
understand, but some day to influence, the process.

  I guess I should add that I really suspect that the reason why class
differences reproduce themselves no matter how much racial mixing and no
matter how much linguistic mixing takes place is that language, like racial
discrimination, is an effect rather than simply a cause, or even (as is
fashionable to declaim) a factor "which both constructs and is constructed
by" class.

  But it IS possible to use the "restricted code" to express consciously
and explicitly the ideas that are inherent and implicit in the "elaborated
code" (which is a complex way of saying that it is possible to express
complex ideas in simple language). So it SHOULD BE possible to offer at
least some working class kids a leg up.

  Vygotsky the primary school teacher knows all this. But people like me
need to understand better how complex words (the intra-mental complexity of
the elaborated code) arises in complex grammar (the inter-mental complexity
of the elaborated code) and how this in turn has its roots in complex
discourse (which I think is just as much a part of the restricted as the
elaborated code).

  I doubt if you will be happier with the argument in this form, and I find
myself a good deal unhappier with it. But perhaps I must be reconciled to
the fact that you will not always enjoy reading my posts!

  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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