RE: [xmca] Material cognition

From: David H Kirshner <dkirsh who-is-at>
Date: Wed Oct 31 2007 - 21:08:26 PDT

> But you have been a language teacher, so you will understand something
about it!

Well, two months with no training doesn't really count.

But I've assumed issues around foreign language instruction parallel the
phonics / whole-language dispute in reading/writing instruction. My
interpretation, in gross terms, is that phonics advocates are motivated
by behaviorist notions of skill development featuring structured
exercises following a task analysis from phonemic/graphemic through
morphemic/lexical levels eventually to communicative text, whereas the
whole language advocates motivated by an enculturationist metaphor seek
to develop dispositions of language usage through a classroom
microculture built around authentic communicative practices. For
ideological reasons each approach sees itself in opposition to the
other, hoping/expecting that the dispositions or skills they don't
explicitly teach will be picked up en passant by students.

>From what you've written, I'm gleaning that foreign language instruction
often adopts a third strategy: bombard the student with linguistic
input/output in order to rev up the LAD (from an innatist perspective)
or in order to create a critical mass of "grammaticized lexis"
("prefabricated patterns that can be recalled and sorted into meaningful
speech and writing" --Wikipedia) (from an emergentist/chaosic
perspective). What's irksome here, if I'm reading you right, is the
absence of authentic communicative motive. Is that it?

David K.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of David Kellogg
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 7:43 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Material cognition

David K:

  Well, this is something of a quarrel that is internal to language
teaching. But you have been a language teacher, so you will understand
something about it!
  For a lot of the latter twentieth century, the emphasis was on
"communication", or "comprehensible input". You can see the metaphor is
a computationalist one: There is an LAD, it's in the brain, when it gets
comprehensible input it works more or less automatically. All we have to
do is feed it, and it grows by itself. Vocabulary acquisition, in
particular, is quite automatic.
  Very early on our students began to smell something wrong. As Michael
Lewis noticed, students were carrying around dictionaries rather than
"communicative exercises". Next the corpus linguists began to realize
that there were more things in the lexicon than were dreamed of in the
generative philosophy (for example, the other day I learnt that when you
use the verb "set" in English you are almost always talking about
something bad: frost sets in, or paralysis, but not happiness or
  People like Michael Hoey have actually suggested doing away with
grammar altogether and simply describing language as statistical
tendencies for vocabulary to occur in some combinations rather than
others. His pedagogical conclusions can only be described as EXTREMELY
reactionary: study what native speakers say, preferably using a
computerized corpus, and then do just what they do!
  This, in my view, reactionary (and even imperialist) tendency has been
given a REAL push forward (or rather backwards) by the current
enthusiasm for chaos/complexity theory in social science. So I've been
reading a lot of chaos complexity theory, and I am very bothered,
because it's clear to me that what is being described are NOT volitional
phenomena at all.
  In fact, BOTH innatism and emergentism deny free will and agency in
language use. Lorenz, the discoverer of the Lorenz attractor (in
weather), points out that chaos is really a non-linear but nevertheless,
in principle, a deterministic state of affairs. But free will is NOT
chaotic behavior because it is truly random (more than one thing is
possible next).
  "We must wholeheartedly believe in free will. If free will is a
reality, we shall have made the correct choice. If it is not, we shall
still not have made an incorrect choice, because we shall not have made
any choice at all, not having a free will to do so." (The Essence of
Chaos, 1993: University of Washington Press: 160).
  : David K
  Seoul National University of Education

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list
Received on Wed Oct 31 21:18 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Nov 20 2007 - 14:25:43 PST