Re: [xmca] neoformation

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Wed Jan 23 2008 - 11:45:02 PST

  (Sorry about that; it was an experiment. I was trying to do away with quotes and simply use indentations, because when I write using our Korean operating system, the quotes come out funny. But it looks like the indentations don't come out at all! Sigh...)
  I think the role of silence is in SEGMENTING speech. The real unit of analysis that children appear to be using in Hyosun's data is the TURN, and something like the "turn-within-a-turn". For example:
  A: How are you?
  B: Fine, thanks, and you?
  This cannot be GRAMMATICALLY analyzed; there are no "sentences" in the B rejoinder (and it is very unhelpful to try to say that we have three vitiated sentences; that suggests that otiose unusuable expressions like "I give you many thanks" are in some sense prior to simple verbal gestures of everyday life such as "thanks").
  Instead, the kids hear a turn followed by silence or a change in speaker. Within the second turn, they hear three POTENTIAL turn changes. And that is what gives them two turns and four "moves", with one move in the first turn and three in the second.
  I guess the way I've always interpreted the Yeats' poem is that Caesar, Helen of Troy, and Michelangelo are all speaking TO THEMSELVES; their minds move on silence in the way that a water-strider uses the responsive surface tension of the water and not the depths to propel itself forward.We take a step, and the responsive surface tension impells us to take another.
  Yes, the stuff about the amorphous whole is LSV; it's all part of the same quote. Here's what I meant to say:
  It¡¯s not just a matter of the speaking ¡°skill¡± and the listening ¡°skill¡± moving in different directions towards different goals. It¡¯s a matter of knowledge: of meaning and understanding. Expression of experience and comprehension of experience, not simply speaking and listening of words, proceed in different directions: towards each other. (that is, expression moves towards comprehension by the other, and comprehension moves towards responsive expression, unless of course you are Caesar, Helen of Troy, Michelangelo or a long-legged fly in which case the other is silence).
  When expression and comprehension meet up (as they do when we anticipate what someone else is going to say and make allowances for it, or when we incorporate what they have just said in our response), they transform each other. Children select words and phrases from what they comprehend and use them to enhance their expressive abilities. But that¡¯s not all they enhance! LSV continues:
  "A child¡¯s thought, precisely because it is born as a dim, amorphous whole, must find expression in a single word. As his thought becomes more differentiated, the child is less apt to express it in single words but constructs a composite whole. Conversely, progress in speech to the differentiated whole of a sentence helps the child¡¯s thoughts to progress from a homogeneous whole to well-defined parts."
  As soon as children go beyond single words to many-word WORDINGS, they are freed up from just using language as a system of auditory gestures; they can talk about the things which are not present (including the past and the future, as well as things that are out of sight and out of their listener's mind). It becomes possible to use words not as gestures but as generalizations (and in writing, this becomes positively necessary).
  LSV looks at this transition in two ways: as the development of the child¡¯s thinking, from a shapeless whole to a complex unity of many parts, and as the development of the child¡¯s speech, from a single word to a complex unity of words. The two transitions are simultaneous, and each one helps bring the other one about.
I'm quite sympathetic to Jaynes' view that consciousness is really a very recent invention, and that before the second millenium BC people had virtually no sense of being conscious at all, rather as children seem to be before their second or third birthday. I also think that before roughly the eighteenth century (earlier in China, and later in other places) words had no denotations; they only had connotations, the way that children's words often seem to. These two considerations seem related to me.
  In contrast, I'm NOT sympathetic to Foucault's whole schtick about the transition from techniques of coercion to technologies of control. THAT seems to me to be a backwards projection of PARENTING techniques onto human history. We can make a perfectly good argument for learning about human history (and particularly the history of language and literacy) from child development. But to reduce history to PARENTING?
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Jan 23 11:47 PST 2008

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