Re: [xmca] Translation Solution

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Mon Feb 05 2007 - 15:52:13 PST

Thank you David!!
I am fascinated. Mostly with the differences in my own conception (which
I thought I drew!!??) and your eloquent reinterpretation and changes you
introduced into this picture. What I like the most is the movements you
point out in the process of defining any concept -- northerly and
southerly movements. I take it as movements necessary for the existence
of any concept.
If I were to change what I thought Vygotsky wanted to depict, I would
not use "points" along the meridians. I think that is why you are trying
to introduce movement. I would use ranges which would illustrate a
mixture of concrete, sensual, experiential and abstract, general,
systematized. In that sense, "war" can be both a concept with an
abstract meaning AND a concrete experience or experiences. The same is
true for "jazz" or anything else. For instance, I can define certain
types of hunger and degrees of malnutrition. I saw pictures and
understand lack of different types of nutrients. But I really never
experienced it, not even in others. I can "imagine" how it must feel to
parents to see their child starving, not to mention personal starvation.
So my concept of malnutrition and starvation, although it may be even
very "concrete" in terms of details I know about it, is still very
abstract and general. It never meant anything personally to me. It never
was an issue about which I had to talk to people in real life and get
into any relationships in which this issue would be of any real
significance for the relationship I was in.

I think it is very useful and really important to use movements to
illustrate various necessary "fluctuations" between very concrete,
experienced, sensual understanding and very abstract, general and
systematized one. However, the movements you illustrate are still too
narrow and still all pertain to abstract, universal, disinterested,
generalized knowledge. Even when you see them going "northerly" or at,
what you call, the North Pole (I see it in reverse, but never mind). In
other words, there are still missing dimensions here. Dimensions which
would account for sudden changes in meaning which are not paradigmatic
or hierarchical like in analogies and metaphors:
" HC Rabbit eats carrot.

 Using a nice, "NORTHERLY" grammatical metaphor, she uses the quality "green" to generalize the entities "carrot," "grass," and "rice".
  T Green eater, because most of grass are green."

Where suddenly carrots are classified under "green" -- and "GREEN" neatly looses its "COLOR" and becomes a type of "FOOD"!

However, even this metaphoric type of movement is still only within the realm of surface analysis because it still does not take other dimensions into account. Dimensions like: circumstances of a conversation and roles and relationships of the protagonists as part of that meaning. Maybe that is not so much a concern for teaching academic skills and knowledge, but it is, nevertheless, something that exists about language and how it is used to make meaning. I had a friend when I went to a summer camp (long time ago in Yugoslavia) whose interest in plants, animals and lectures of the sort you described below, earned him a nickname "Agriculture" among the rest of us kids. We still call him that, 40 years later! Imagine that type of meaning!


David Kellogg wrote:
> Thanks to all the Russophones who helped, but especially copious thanks to Ana for her little sketch.
> For a moment I had a little trouble figuring out the "dog", "war" and "jazz" lines of longitude. The reason is that I'm incurably visual, and while it's very easy for me to understand what "dog" looks like at the North Pole (that is, the spontaneous concept end, where a concept is virtually indistinguishable from a concrete object) it's very hard for me to see what "jazz" and "war" look like, since neither one is a concrete object.
> Similarly, it's easy to see what "war" as a purely abstract concept (free of time and place) looks like at the South Pole (where all wars must be identical in conceptual terms). But the idea of a specific, concrete form of "jazz" (unrelated to other forms of jazz) is hard to get my poor incurably visual head around.
> But now I think I've got it. My solution is a pretty Hallidayan one, though, and it will probably not sit well with the non-semiotically minded. Here's how it works. Halliday has this kind of hierarchy of grammatical metaphor which runs from inter-mental discourse to intra-mental lexicogrammar. (Pardon my somewhat Cartesian example!)
> A (entering a room): I think.
> B: THERE you are!
> We can formulate this as text:
> "I think. Therefore, I am."
> Here, the relationship is realized as a "relator" ("therefore") which connects two independent clause complexes, just the way the room in the previous example connected the two independent voices. But of course we can formulate it more closely, like this:
> RELATOR as CLAUSE NEXUS: "I think, so I conclude that I exist."
> And more closely still, as CIRCUMSTANCE:
> "As a result of my thinking, I conclude that I exist."
> And more closely still, as PROCESS:
> "My thinking results in the conclusion that I exist."
> And more closely, as QUALITY:
> "The resultant conclusion of my thought is that I exist."
> And most concretely of all, as ENTITY:
> "The result of my thought is that I exist."
> We can construe the North Pole as being something like the pole of concrete entities (preferably real objects like dogs and not abstractions like war or jazz, but almost anything can be reified these days).
> We can think of the South Pole as the pole of abstract relators (or even purely implicit relationships). There is virtually no object to which the concept relates (and in the case of a dog it would have to be reduced to a single quality, such as number).
> We can think of each latitudinal circle as being a circle of points that cover ideational meanings (that is, "experiential" meanings, with the caveat that language is not simply a theory of experience but also a theory of things that we have not, will not, and cannot experience).
> At the PROCESS latitude, this will look rather like Halliday's ring:
> At the north pole, though, there is a single point, because each concept is a unique concrete object (like "David" or "Ana"). At the south pole, there is a single point because each concept is a unique idea with an infinite number of names that all refer to the same thing (like a number).
> What's the advantage of doing things this way? Well, first of all, it explains very well what we do when we define scientific concepts: we move to a SLIGHTLY more southerly latitude and then refine it by moving north:
> "A dog is mammalian quadruped (SOUTHERLY) of the genus "canus" and the species "canus" (NORTHWARD HO!).
> "War is a protracted form of organized violence (SOUTHERLY) by large social groups using weapons (NORTHERLY).
> "Jazz is an improvised form of music (SOUTHERLY) developed by black people in the USA in the twentieth century (NORTHERLY).
> There are other payoffs too though. One is the one I indicated earlier: it allows us to make sentences that look something like mathematical equations. For example:
> "The orbital movement of the electron is what creates the electron shell":
> If we imagine for a moment that "f" means something like "generates", or "creates", we can see that, assuming a "Verb-Subject-Object" grammar, this sentence says something roughly equivalent to:
> f (x) = y
> By applying grammatical metaphor recursively, we get sentences like:
> "The creation of an electron shell by the orbital movement of an electron is what creates the chemical properties of an element."
> f[f(x)] = z
> Once we've established the equivalence of certain terms, it is possible to "ascend to the concrete" through substitution:
> "The electron shell is what creates the chemical properties of an element."
> f (y) = z
> We can now create complex entities within entities, perform processes on processes and discuss meta-relationships, that is, relationships between sets of relationships.
> At this point, Mike is probably asking whether it really happens like this in real classrooms. Well, have a look at this. One of my grad students is introducing the idea of a food pyramid. She begins by eliciting examples in clause form, e.g.:
> HS Hippo eats grass.
> T Grass. Hippo eats grass. HJ?
> HJ Giraffe eats grass.
> T Giraffe eats grass. HC?
> HC Rabbit eats carrot.
> Using a nice, "NORTHERLY" grammatical metaphor, she uses the quality "green" to generalize the entities "carrot," "grass," and "rice".
> T Green eater, because most of grass are green.
> T We can call grass eater green eater, ok?
> Ss Yes.
> T OK, can you make another name for meat eater?
> The teacher and the children expand this into a slightly more SOUTHERLY scientific grammatical metaphor, using a process as a quality:
> T Ok, now everyone, follow me.
> T Here is grass, and then on the next step? Here is grass eating animal.
> T And then the next step is meat eating animal.
> T So let me summarize the words about animals and plants.
> T Here is grass and then grass eater.
> HC Grass eating animal.
> The teacher then collapses this into a purely technical term, eliminating all traces of the process "eat." The path she takes, however, is somewhat circuitous, very much like Ana's circumnavigation of the globe.
> T Every meal, we eat rice.
> T Rice is grass, right?
> Ss Yeah~
> T So human, I mean people eat both grass and meat.
> T So we can call it what? color eater?
> HC Colorful.
> AS Colorful eater.
> T Colorful.? what is colorful?
> HC Anything eater.
> T Anything eater. Like this, rainbow.
> HC Rainbow?
> T Just it makes you easy to understand, ok?
> Ss Wae-o? (Why?)
> T Because of green and red and some color. So rainbow.
> T Rainbow has a lot of color, right?
> Ss Yes.
> T We can say that just grass-meat eater. Like this.
> T But now I'll tell you some professional words, ok?
> T Grass, the first consumer is a herbivore.
> T Herbivore, herbivore. Ok, repeat after me, herbivore.
> Ss Herbivore.
> T Herbivore.
> Ss Herbivore.
> T Herbivore is 초식동물 in Korean, ok?
> HC remarks that humans are "colorful" eaters, upon which AS deftly changes the quality "colorful" back to the entity "anything" (along the lines of the teacher's transformation of "green" to "grass" and "red" to "meat").
> The teacher steps briefly back NORTH in the direction of "qualities" by offering "rainbow eater" to describe humans. The word is not taken up with much enthusiasm, but it serves spontaneously to illustrate spontaneously, that is, in spontaneous conceptual terms, the scientific concept "omnivore," which is then translated into the native language.
> When the teacher has to talk about meta-relationships, that is, the relationships between the different types of relationships to food, she takes a step back NORTH from the Latinate "omnivore" (but does not go all the way to the spontaneous illustrations using colors). The children, however, insist on the SOUTHERLY Latin.
> T If grass eater is more than grass, what happen? What happen?
> HS Uh~ every monkey died.
> T Maybe on the earth, there is no grass.
> T So maybe grass eater will die.
> T And then meat eater also will die.
> T And the last, people will die.
> T Do you understand what I'm saying?
> SP Oh~yeah.
> T Ok, good. How about second?
> T Second consumer is meat eater.
> HC Keu daeum maen majimak-eun people. ("So next the very last one is gonna be 'people'")
> T OK, the last consumer
> Ss People, people...
> HS Omnivore
> T People, or lion, something like that.
> Ss Omnivore. omnivore...
> T Eagles here.
> T Ok, meat eater is less than grass eater, ok?
> T Grass eater is more than meat eater.
> T Do you understand?
> Ss Yes..
> T So this kind of system, we can call this kind of system food pyramid, OK?
> The children have clearly understood the Vygotskyan principle according to which more generalizeable concepts have interchangeable names, and they have clearly also grasped the Hallidayan mechanism of grammatical metaphor whereby these names can be generated.
> Interestingly, however, they do not quite manage to get the concept the food pyramid, since they insist on placing omnivorous humans rather than carnivorous lions or eagles at the peak! Anthropocentrism, I suppose--abetted by the teacher, in her rather NORTHERLY sketch of what would happen if all the grass died!
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> ---------------------------------
> Don't pick lemons.
> See all the new 2007 cars at Yahoo! Autos.
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------------------------------------------------------------------------ /Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Ph.D./ /151 W. Tulpehocken St./

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