Re: [xmca] my new questions

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sun Feb 10 2008 - 11:48:03 PST

Dear Elinami:


Good! At least ONE other person on this list still uses terms of endearment as salutations!


When I was growing up in France, the usual salutation was simply 'Salut!'. I always thought this meant 'Hi!' which is the usual salutation on this list. But I'm listening to Gounod's 'Faust', and right before he attempts to kill himself, Faust sings:


Salut, mon dernier matin!


You can hardly translate this as 'Hi, Last Morning!' There is a lot more Gallic gravitas in 'salut' than in 'Hi', and in the same way I think there is more English endearment in 'dear'. (Think of the way English grannies call you "dearie"!)


Halliday likes to use the term ''logogenesis' instead of microgenesis. The question is whether what is being produced here is really reducible to words, or whether the words are simply pointing fingers that indicate something beyond words.


I gather that your research is really about how 'womanly' activities turn into 'womanliness' and this in turn becomes 'womanhood' (alternatively, how 'boyish' activities lead to 'manhood'). I have a similar line of research, though it is not obviously gendered in any way (and in fact I think it¡¯s not particularly teleogical, which is one of the things I like about it).


My research is really about how 'rote' activities turn into 'role' activities, which in turn become 'rule' activites. For example:


T: Look! Listen!(jumps rope and chants rhythmically) Little boy, little boy, turn around

Little boy, Little boy touch the ground

Little boy, little boy, touch the sky

Little boy, little boy, say goodbye!

Now, YOU say, and I do! (Children chant and teacher jumps). Now I say and YOU do! (Teacher chants and children jump). Now HE says and SHE does (children work in pairs)


We can call this a 'rote' activity, because it involves linguistic repetition rather than creative variation, and also because the metalinguistic resources needed to teach it are simple imperatives ('Look! Listen'). Notice, though, that it ends with ¡°Casting¡± (¡°HE says and SHE does¡±) and there is an implicit division of roles (Little Boy and Rope Twirler, whose identity is not clear).


Suppose we teach it as a role play, like this:


T: Look. This is 'Little Boy' and here is 'Bossy Big Sister'. Little Boy is little. He can¡¯t talk. He only DOES. What does he do?


Big Sister is BOSSY. She BOSSES Little Boy. What does she say? She says 'Little Boy, Little Boy, Turn around¡¦!'


We can call this a 'role' activity, because it involves hypostatizing the repeated actions and words as imaginary characters.


This is the procedure that Leontiev apparently objects to (and we can see why; he is chronically allergic to anything that smacks of an exclusively semiotic mediation, and without words there would be no clear reason for hypostatizing the actions into TWO characters).


But we can see that it represents a definite developmental step forward, because the metalinguistic resources needed to teach it are no longer simple imperatives but rather more complex declarative sentences, which have arguments (subjects and complements).


If that were all there were to it, then we would have to say that there is only LINGUISTIC development, and that my research is completely unrelated to yours. But I think that's NOT all there is to it.


The reason is that the characters that we see in this example is not simply made of hypostatized words and actions. 'Little Boy' and his bossy big sister are imaginary selves. As your pointed out, these imaginary selves are not SIMPLY made of actions. They are also made of IDEAS, they involve IDEALIZATION.


This explains two key developmental characteristics. First of all, the child can use them to MEDIATE (control) the behavior of others. Characters are imaginary, but they have the curious property of controlling real actions. Secondly, the child can use them to control his or her OWN behavior and make it regular. And this regularity is what brings about the THIRD developmental step.


T: Now, WE say, and Hayeong does. 'Little girl, little girl, turn your back!' Stop! Hayeong! You didn't turn your back! You lose. Now it's Jiyeong's turn. Jiyeong! If you don't turn your back, you lose! If anybody disobeys the words, she or he loses a turn!


We can call this a 'rule' activity. Once again, I think it is a developmental step forward. We can see that once again, the metalinguistic resources required to teach it are qualitatively more sophisticated (they involve negatives and past tense, then general formulations using conditionals and 'anybody'and 'she or he').


We could say that this metalinguistic sophistication is unrelated to the kind of developmental qualities you are talking about; we are just teaching English grammar. But notice that we¡¯ve really dematerialized the imaginary characters (though we can still refer to them if we need them) and replaced them with abstract rules, and that these abstract rules are in some sense much more open ended than the roles they replace.


I am NOT arguing that abstract rules are an endpoint of development. I don¡¯t think, actually, that language is rule governed at all; what we call grammar is simply a particular rigid and not particularly interesting form of upper class style. I certainly HOPE that social action is not rote or role governed, and I have my doubts about the wisdom of making it rigidly rule governed. But I AM arguing that rule-governed behavior is a higher form of behavior than role-governed behavior, just as role-governed behavior is higher than rote-governed behavior.


Each higher form of behavior (role over rote, and rule over role) offers more freedom, even if the exact way in which it does this is by apparently DENYING certain options. There are two reasons for this increase in freedom. The first reason is that roles and then rules are ways of denying options that are controlled by the children themselves and allow the children to control their behavior as if from the outside. But the second reason is that while they deny certain options they also allow children the power to create options that previously did not exist. This second reason is actually what allows the children to progress from role play to rule play (the children can make up NEW roles with new corresponding rote words, and these in turn give rise to new rules.)


I think we can agree that there is a lot more going on here than 'logogenesis' or the difference between 'salut', 'Hi', and 'dear'. On the other hand, I think there is a lot LESS going on here than the 'increased competency in womanly activities' that you are writing about.


I¡¯ve been reading a lot of EARLY Bakhtin ('Art and Answerability'). It's interesting that EARLY Bakhtin stresses ACTS and ACTIONS (and it is mostly about ETHICS, that is, the transition from action to cognition). There is very little stuff about language until Bakhtin falls under the spell of Volosinov and Medvedev we get 'Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics'. (I know, this is the reverse of the usual account of what happened, but it DOES fit the facts a little better!).


Compare this to LATE Vygotsky ('Thinking and Speech'). It¡¯s interesting that LATE Vygotsky stresses WORDS and THOUGHTS (and it¡¯s mostly about THINKING, that is, the transition from cognition to action). And then¡¦well, you know what happens next. He dies, and his work falls under the spell of Leontiev and activity theory. So we get this stress on ACTS and ACTIONS.


And that¡¯s the problem with the Leontiev quote I posted, I think. Leontiev wants to believe in human freedom, in volitional choice. But he has done away with the semiotic forms of mediation that make human freedom a real possibility, namely roles. So, incredibly, he has reinvented the 'true self' and is trying to differentiate it from the various social roles we play.


But that¡¯s NOT freedom at all. Freedom is not the feeling of having a real face well hidden behind a mask or a warm hand inside a glove. Freedom is being able to put masks on and take them off by yourself, and wear gloves when it is cold outside or when you have hard work to do. Freedom is making new roles, and creating new rules. It's a little hard for me to see how one can do this with gender, though!


David Kellogg

Seoul National University of Education

Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo! Search.
xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Feb 10 11:50 PST 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Mar 06 2008 - 10:37:02 PST